Only Mario Balotelli could fire an 85th minute winner in front of the Kop and still find himself at the centre of controversy.
The Italian’s decision to take the ball from captain for the evening and designated penalty taker Jordan Henderson after the referee had pointed to the spot with minutes remaining, seemed to cause a bit of a stir amongst several of the Liverpool team.
Henderson is normally the first on the scene at any goal celebration, so the fact the 24-year-old sheepishly congratulated Balotelli after he had sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from 12 yards told it’s own story.
Daniel Sturridge also had his say on the matter, seemingly trying to persuade his strike partner to give the ball to Henderson.
Even Steven Gerrard – working as a pundit for ITV – went as far to suggest Balotelli ‘had shown Jordan a little bit of disrespect.’
But at the end of the day, Balotelli was without a doubt the right man to take the spot kick.
Daniel Sturridge has missed his last two penalties in a Liverpool shirt, hitting efforts over the crossbar against Manchester City in pre-season, and Everton in the Premier League victory last season, whilst Henderson has never taken a penalty for the club.
Balotelli has missed just two penalties in a career that has seen him take spot kicks in European Championship quarter finals, Champions League clashes, and crucial Premier League and Serie A matches – of which several have been scored later than 85 minutes. His overall record now stands at having scored 27 penalties from 29 taken.
Widely considered to be one of the best penalty takers in world football, Brendan Rodgers should have said prior to kick off if Balotelli is on the pitch when Gerrard is absent – he is the man on penalty duty.
A world also for Emre Can, who was one of the few to properly celebrate what could prove to be a crucial goal for the Reds, and also berated the likes of Sturridge for not showing the same type of enthusiasm for the Italian’s fourth goal of the season. Another indication of the sort of qualities and leadership skills the German is set to bring to Anfield for years to come.
The final word on the matter should be with the man himself, who said on social media after the game: ‘Thank you Hendo for letting me take the penalty. Stop the drama now. We won and that’s what counts. We are a team, and especially we are Liverpool.”
Was Balotelli right to take the penalty off of Henderson? And with two goals and an assist in his last three appearances, is he finally coming good at Liverpool? Let us know your thoughts below.