Brendan Rodgers took pleasure from the sheer persistence that earned Liverpool what the manager considered the most important thing from their Champions League tie with Ludogorets Razgrad – a win and three points.

Having finally secured a breakthrough against the Bulgarian champions via the boot of Mario Balotelli, Anfield was stunned in stoppage time when Dani Abalo drove clear and planted home a stadium-silencing equaliser.

But further drama remarkably followed when Javier Manquillo chased down a loose ball in opposition territory and was tripped by the goalkeeper, allowing captain Steven Gerrard to step up and convert a penalty to claw back victory.

Rodgers accentuated that tangible spirit within his squad in the immediate aftermath of the final whistle, explaining at length why taking maximum points from the opening Group B fixture was paramount.

The boss said: "We showed great determination. At times, we had quality in our game and just in that final third of the field we couldn't make the final pass.

"But tonight was about perseverance, if I was to describe the team. It's an attribute you need to have, especially at the highest level. We just persisted - we kept going, working and pushing. The whole ground really appreciated that.

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"It's a competition that is about winning games and sometimes you'll play well and maybe not get a result. It was always going to be a tricky tie for us because they're the champions of their country and there are not too many bad teams in this competition.

"Technically, they were very good. We had to show patience and change the shape of the team from 4-3-3 to a diamond to try to work some more space in the area.

"Mario got a great goal, but I'm disappointed with the equaliser, as the team were, because we've got to see that out.

"Maybe in [my] first six months we probably would have drawn that game and maybe even lost it, but we showed the resilience and character that's in this group.

"Roared on by the supporters, it was great for us - the young kid [Manquillo] was up in the box looking to get something from the game, and he got his reward and got the penalty.

"It was a brilliant victory for us in terms of the points and character. This is a tournament that's about winning games - and we've won our first game."

Though the encounter was Liverpool's first in the Champions League since December 2009, Rodgers' charges were widely expected to overcome the challenge of Bulgaria's reigning title-holders.

Yet the visitors were tenacious operators on Merseyside, comfortable in possession and capable of instantaneously moving from defence to attack to ask questions of the home side's defending.

"They'll be a difficult opponent," Rodgers analysed. "You saw from tonight they will cause problems for teams. They have got some very good technical players on the break, they are fast.

"When you play in Sofia, there will be 60,000 supporters there. They won't be easy games. What's important in the competition is if you can win your home games and pick up points away from home, it gives you a great chance to qualify.

"We can do no more than win tonight. We're not at a standard that we were last season; we've got a lot of adaptation going on with new players coming in, and even though they fit the profile of how we work, it's still a new team.

"We're still a work in progress but while we do that, it's important that we can win games. To win in the Champions League is always good."

Few will have been surprised by the decibel levels in evidence as a sold-out Anfield crowd waited for kick-off, anxious to build up the kind of trademark atmosphere expected for European ties.

The noise was maintained throughout the 90 minutes too, and naturally reached crescendo when Gerrard planted his spot-kick into the bottom corner in the closing seconds.

Rodgers added: "It definitely cranks up in terms of the noise level. I'm happy for the supporters that they are back in a competition that they are so synonymous with.

"It's a wonderful occasion, this level of football. It's great to be back in it and it's great for them to have that feeling of being in the competition. Now we've got the three points, we've now got to focus on the Premier League."