Balotelli banishes goal-drought to topple Tottenham at Anfield
Mario Balotelli proved to be an unlikely hero as he came off the bench to secure a 3-2 Anfield triumph for Liverpool, breaking his Premier League duck for Brendan Rodgers at the 13th attempt to stun Spurs.
The Reds, 10/3 with Coral for a top four finish, edged a five-goal Merseyside thriller thanks to their super sub, who struck after 83 minutes to snatch victory and move the Anfield outfit within a single point of Tottenham.
Rodgers’ decision to introduce his out-of-favour Italian and playmaker Adam Lallana proved to be a match-winning move, with the England midfielder playing a delightfully driven cross towards Balotelli, who comfortably slotted home to seal all three points.
Winger Lazar Markovic made an early impact, firing in his third league goal of the season to put Liverpool ahead, before in-from forward Harry Kane levelled with his 23rd strike of this campaign.
Spurs’ sensational striker has now scored more goals this calendar year than both Manchester United and Manchester City, level with Lionel Messi as Europe’s leading marksman for 2015 across all competitions.
Reds skipper Steven Gerrard then sent the hosts in front from the penalty spot moments after half-time, but their lead lasted only seven minutes as brilliant Belgian midfielder Mousa Dembele equalised after a goalmouth scramble.
Liverpool’s lacklustre striker Balotelli then became an unlikely match-winner, tapping in from close range to steal the win.
Anfield boss Rodgers will now hope his Italian import can kick on for the remainder of the season, and help fire the rejuvenated Reds towards a fourth place finish this term, with Liverpool now unbeaten in their previous seven home league fixtures.
The Italy international’s Spurs strike was only his third of the current campaign, with one goal apiece in Liverpool’s unsuccessful Champions League return and run to the Capital One Cup semis.
However, during the 2012/13 season, Balotelli had netted just four times for former employers Man City before February, but then went on to strike 20 goals in all competitions following a San Siro switch, proving he is capable of overturning a poor run of form in mid-season.
The former AC Milan marksman finished last term with an impressive tally of 19 strikes and, after his latest Premier League exploits, Liverpool will hope misfiring Mario can inspire them in a charge for Champions League football again ahead of rivals Man Utd and Spurs.
Rodgers’ Reds are 14/1 to lift the Europa League trophy this term, after a resurgent run of form which has seen them lose just once in their previous 15 encounters in all competitions.