Liverpool's Steven Gerrard acknowledges fans after their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England March 26, 2014.
Gerrard scored the winner against Ludogorets. Reuters

Steven Gerrard has heaped praise on Liverpool youngster Javier Manquillo after the Spanish right-back earned a penalty in injury time to help his side secure a 2-1 win against Ludogorets on their Champions League return.

The Merseysiders looked set to drop crucial points at home to the Bulgarian side when Dani Abalo equalised in stoppage time, following's Mario Balotelli's opener.

However, Manquillo was fouled by goalkeeper Milan Borjan in the second minute of injury time, giving Gerrard the chance to secure victory from the spot.

"That's the type of defender he is; he's on the front foot, he's aggressive, he's very attacking and he got his reward tonight by being brave and ambitious," Gerrard told Liverpool's official website.

"But he chased down a lost ball and we got rewarded for it. I think he's done very well since he's come in - not just tonight."

Meanwhile, the Liverpool skipper has also hailed Balotelli's performance after the Italian international scored his first goal for the Reds to open up the game.

"I think [the goal] will be the first of many. I thought he worked his socks off tonight. Sometimes, when it's not going a striker's way, they sulk and they give up, but he was relentless tonight. He stayed in there and the one good chance that came his way, he took it. I thought it was a great finish."

Nevertheless, while Gerrard is happy to return to the Champions League with a victory, he admits Liverpool will need to improve in the next group game against Basel, before their double header with Spanish giants Real Madrid.

"I was very relieved we got the three points," admitted the 34-year-old. "It was very important to start the competition off with maximum points.

"I don't think it was a very good performance from ourselves, but we managed to take the three points, which was vital."