The Liverpool boss insists the Italian was right to take an 85th-minute penalty off Jordan Henderson but believes he effectively stopped running after scoring his spot-kick
Brendan Rodgers insists Mario Balotelli must work harder than he did after scoring a late penalty in Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Besiktas in Thursday’s Europa League round-of-32 first-leg clash.
Balotelli coolly slotted in from 12 yards on 85 minutes after a brief dispute with captain Jordan Henderson over who should take the kick to give Liverpool a narrow lead with five minutes left.
But despite scoring for a second time in three games, the Italian’s overall contribution failed to impress Rodgers, who believes his striker effectively stopped running after scoring his goal.
Asked whether he was satisfied with Balotelli’s performance, the Liverpool boss replied: “No, not really, no.
“We need to ensure that whatever level of the game we are playing at we have everyone working as a team and once we got the penalty he stopped working. So he needs to improve on that facet of his game to play in his position, rather than standing on the side of the football field.
“He has contributed against Besiktas, he has got the penalty and scored the goal but that is what he is paid to do. He needs to keep that efficiency in his game and show that he can affect the team whether he is asked to play from the bench or from the start. In a different country and a different style of football that goal would be all that matters but in this team there is more to it than that.”
Rodgers did, however, defend Balotelli’s actions in taking the penalty off Henderson after Steven Gerrard accused the Italian of undermining the authority of his captain for the night on the pitch.
“If you’re the vice-captain and the captain is on the bench but he comes on, it is the etiquette to go and then give him the armband,” Rodgers added.
“It’s a similar thing with a penalty – if Steven is on the field, there is no drama as he takes the penalty. He is the first-choice penalty taker. After that, if Mario is on the field, he takes the penalty.
“His history shows he’s scored nearly 30 penalties in big games, so he is an outstanding penalty taker. At the time when neither of them were on, Jordan was the nominated taker.
“Then Mario was on the field, a pressure situation, and Jordan was happy enough to take it but he gave it to Mario, who gets his goal and there is no drama.”