Balotelli 'disrespectful' to grab penalty, says Gerrard
Liverpool win, but Balotelli steals headlines yet again after taking the ball from Jordan Henderson
Liverpool 1 Besiktas 0. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard accused Mario Balotelli of "disrespect" after the Italian striker insisted on taking the crucial penalty that won the Reds the game against Besiktas.
The Turkish outfit had put up stiff resistance in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 clash at Anfield but all their hard work was undone when Ramon Motta fouled Jordon Ibe inside the area. Referee Szymon Marciniak awarded a penalty to the Reds and Jordan Henderson – deputising as captain for the injured Gerrard – stepped up to take the spot kick.
But Balotelli had other ideas. The man known as 'bonkers' during his days with Manchester City took the ball from Henderson and, according to the BBC, "appeared to get in a disagreement with both the Liverpool midfielder and striker Daniel Sturridge". Henderson looked towards the bench as if for guidance but none was forthcoming and so Balotelli got his way and, as it turned out, got the goal that won Liverpool the tie.
But Gerrard wasn't impressed with the Italian's antics. Looking on from the ITV studio where he was a guest pundit, the injured player said: "Henderson is the captain and Balotelli showed Jordan a bit of disrespect there."
Describing Balotelli as "a bit mischievous", Gerrard added: "Credit to Mario, he's scored, but it's not nice to see when footballers are arguing. I think Jordan has handled the situation very well."
Once Balotelli had scored the penalty – his 27th successful spot kick in 29 attempts – he celebrated with his team-mates although Henderson "initially acknowledged the goal by tapping the striker on shoulder". Balotelli wasn't having that, however and grabbed his stand-in skipper for a warm embrace.
Henderson admitted subsequently that he had wanted to take the penalty but "Mario felt confident and he has taken big penalties before".
Balotelli later posted a message on Instagram in which he said: "Thank you hendo for let me take the penalty… Stop drama now. We won that's what it count. We are a team and especially we are Liverpool. Come on guys."
Manager Brendan Rodgers was also keen to avoid sensationalising the incident when asked to clarify who should have taken the penalty: "I am clarifying we won the game 1-0," he retorted. "It was the perfect result and sets up for the second leg next week."
In the night's other Europa League clashes involving British sides, Romelu Lukaku cracked a hat-trick for Everton as they thrashed Young Boys 4-1 in Switzerland, Tottenham were held 1-1 at home by Fiorentina, while in Glasgow Celtic recovered from conceding two early goals against Inter Milan, to draw 3-3 thanks to John Guidetti's stunning goal in stoppage time.