Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen believes the scrappy 2-2 Champions League draw against Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets can be an unlikely platform on which to rebuild their season.
The point kept alive the Reds’ hopes of making the knockout stages of the competition, which now goes down to a must-win match at home to Basle in a fortnight, but the result may be just as significant in helping get their domestic campaign back on track.
Manager Brendan Rodgers told the players they had to start afresh in Bulgaria after a morale-sapping four-match losing streak and despite conceding an 88th-minute equaliser, having turned things around from conceding a third-minute opener, Allen insists there are positives to be taken from the match.
“There’s an element of frustration because we were ahead in the game until so late on,” said the Wales international.
“It was disappointing to concede a goal like that but the bigger picture is that our Champions League dream is still alive and still in our hands and that is a big bonus for us.
“There were improvements all round. The commitment was there for everyone to see.
“I thought we had more composure than we have had at times and certainly more self-belief and it is a step in the right direction. The only disappointment is that we didn’t get all three points.
“The start (to the game) almost summed up how it’s been going for us recently but the biggest test for us was (showing) that resolve to come back.
“It is not easy in an away Champions League fixture to come from a goal behind and if you look back we could have extended it to 3-1.”
Allen, whose side face Stoke on Saturday, added: “The manager mentioned that it was almost like a fresh start and we see it that way as players.
“It’s up to us to turn it around and it is now back to Premier League action at the weekend and we are looking forward to giving everything to get three points.”
Players and managers have come in for increasing criticism as Liverpool lurched from one poor performance to another and Allen admits you have to find a way to deal with the negativity which accompanies a run of bad results.
“As a professional footballer you are always dealing with that pressure and expectation but you have to learn to deal with it,” he said.
“I feel better at dealing with it. It’s not been an ideal start to the season, I think that is obvious, but the biggest thing is I have confidence in myself and the whole squad that we have the ability and the quality to turn it around.
“It is something you learn with experience. Every single player at this club has had highs and lows in their career but it is how you deal with it and I think the biggest positive of this club is that everyone is capable of doing that.
“Last night was a positive step in the right direction and long that may continue.”
On criticism of Rodgers he said: “Brendan is handling it fine. He wouldn’t be Liverpool manager if he couldn’t handle it. He has the backing of all the players and he knows that.”
Allen believes having home advantage in their now season-defining final group match will be of huge benefit in two weeks’ time.
“If you are serious about doing well in this competition, when we got the fixtures at the start we would have targeted the Basle game as one where we needed to get three points and that hasn’t changed,” he said.
“We all believe we can do it. We’re at Anfield and we’ll be calling on all our supporters to get behind us and make it a seriously tough night for Basle.
“It’s still in our hands and that’s a big bonus for us. The outcome hasn’t changed at all so that was a positive.”
One plus to come from the Ludogorets match was a second goal in as many matches for Rickie Lambert, who took over from injured striker Mario Balotelli at the weekend and has fully justified his place.
The £4million summer signing from Southampton has scored as many goals (two) in five starts this season than £16million arrival Balotelli has in 11.
“There has been a lot of talk about our lack of goals,” added Allen. “We obviously lost a world-class goalscorer (in Luis Suarez) so for Rickie to come in and get two in two is all you can ask for.
“It has been great for him and I am sure that will really kick his self-belief on and he will keep that goalscoring run going.”