Balotelli's winner boosts top-four hopes

END OF DROUGHT: Everything is coming up roses for Balotelli after his goal - his first for the Reds in 13 league games - against Tottenham at Anfield on Tuesday.


    Feb 12, 2015

    Balotelli's winner boosts top-four hopes


    L IVERPOOL assistant manager Colin Pascoe believes Mario Balotelli's long-awaited first Premier League goal for the Reds could kick-start the striker's spluttering Anfield career.

    Balotelli came off the bench to net a dramatic winner seven minutes from time in Tuesday's 3-2 victory, as Brendan Rodgers' side boosted their hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League.

    It was the Italy international's first goal for Liverpool in 13 league games, and his first in the English top flight since he scored for Manchester City against Wigan in 2012.

    Pascoe hopes Balotelli's struggles will now become a thing of the past and that the enigmatic 24-year-old, who had previously scored only twice in all competitions this season, can take confidence from the goal.

    "I hope it can be a springboard, he is training hard," Pascoe said. "It's a testament to (his hard work)...he kept going and got his reward. It was great movement from Mario in the six-yard box and a good finish."

    The Reds had twice led through Lazar Markovic and a Steven Gerrard penalty, only to be pegged back by goals from Tottenham's Harry Kane and Mousa Dembele.

    However, Balotelli came off the bench to strike the decisive blow and secure the points against one of Liverpool's rivals for a Champions League spot.

    Liverpool now lie seventh in the table, one place behind Spurs and only three points off the all-important top four.

    "The last couple of weeks, Mario's been ill," Pascoe added. "And he has had some knocks on his foot and he couldn't get his boot on. So it's great that he scored the winner. He is immensely happy to get a winner at Anfield."

    Despite his match-winning heroics, the striker trooped off the pitch disconsolately at the final whistle, refusing to bask in the adulation of the home fans or accept the congratulations of his teammates and coaching staff.

    "I'm sure Mario will be smiling in the dressing room because he's just won us the game. He's got three points for the team," midfielder Jordan Henderson said.

    "We showed some great character and we played some great stuff. The way we're going, we feel we can beat anyone at the moment. We've got some real momentum going."

    Pascoe - deputising for manager Brendan Rodgers, who had to fly to Italy straight after the final whistle to watch a game in Europe yesterday - revealed that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was withdrawn in the second half as a preventative measure because of a slight hamstring problem.

    "Steven felt his hamstring and felt he had to come off," Pascoe said. "He could feel it a little. But it was an important win. It was a great win and we deserved it."

    Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino urged his players not to let the defeat affect their performances as they try to secure a place in the Champions League.

    "The players are very disappointed, sad and tired, but we have to accept football is like this," he said. "I am proud of the effort and we have to look forward.

    "We are disappointed with the result because I think one point would have been fair for both teams. It was a great game, we played well, but this is football."