The Italian striker insisted on taking the match-winning spot-kick against Besiktas, overruling stand-in captain Jordan Henderson, but the manager is keen to move on
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says that a “perfect result” is more important than a squabble over Mario Balotelli taking the winning penalty in a 1-0 victory over Besiktas.
Balotelli took the ball off stand-in captain Jordan Henderson to bury a spot kick in the closing stages at Anfield, a change to squad rules criticised on television by injured skipper Steven Gerrard.
But Rodgers was keen to focus on the victory rather than debating the taker.
“We won the game,” he told the press. “We got the win, which is the most important factor. I have a number of outstanding penalty takers with Jordan and Mario and Rickie Lambert. You see the spirit in the team and to get the win was excellent.”
Asked to clarify who the designated taker was, Rodgers replied: “I am clarifying we won the game 1-0.”
Rodgers was full of praise for Jordon Ibe, who was excellent throughout, but denied that the 19-year-old was close to signing a new deal.
“You have seen the kid’s performances since he has come back from loan,” the manager enthused. “He has played in big games and given big performances. He is a real threat every time he gets the ball. Not only that, he works very hard every time he gets the ball. But, no, there is nothing on a new contract.”
Having been comfortable defensively for much of the evening, Rodgers was keen to give credit to the organisation and defensive solidity that his side showed.
He continued: “It was an excellent result and performance and it was always going to be a tight game. I believe Besiktas have scored in every away game so it shows our defensive organisation [that] we kept a clean sheet.
“Simon [Mignolet] had an outstanding save in the first half. We created chances and moved the ball quicker in the second half. It’s a perfect result and sets us up for the second leg next week.”
Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic, a former Everton player, was magnanimous in defeat, suggesting that Liverpool were deserved winners, but warned that the tie is far from over.
“It was brilliant atmosphere,” he said. “Of course, when you concede a late penalty, you are gutted and, from our point of view, it wouldn’t be unfair if it finished 0-0 or 1-1. We deserved a bit more but, from their side, they deserved maybe the one goal.”