Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli needs to use the momentum of his goal to push on…
It was the moment everyone associated with Liverpool has been waiting for. It was the moment that the players, management and supporters have been waiting to happen for over six months – Mario Balotelli scoring his first Premier League goal in a red shirt.
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On his thirteenth match attempt, the Italian striker ended his drought, taking his meagre tally to three for the season in all competitions. However, not only was it a goal, it was a crucial goal – a winning goal against a major top four rival.
It might have only been a tap in, set up by wonderful work by Adam Lallana on the right hand side, but it was the sort of break that he’s been waiting for, the sort of break he simply hasn’t had so far.
Despite Tottenham coming from behind twice at Anfield, it was Brendan Rodgers’ side who held on and claimed all three points. Lazar Markovic and Steven Gerrard both found the net, but the game will be remembered for one moment of Mario magic.
As ever with Balotelli, there was an air of controversy surrounding what should have been a moment of joy. The player’s lack of a celebration was criticised by some onlookers, who were shocked that the 24-year-old would not even crack a smile after his winning goal.
However, after the game, Balotelli tweeted the message: “Great game guys!!! This smile is ONLY for those that always believe and support me. Thank you.” He also included a link to an Instagram picture of himself with a broad smile across his face.
Balotelli is an enigma, he is his own man and that is regularly enough for his critics, who will grab hold of any opportunity to attack him. While some of their criticism is clearly justified, the Italian is sadly damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.
Thankfully, there is now reason for optimism. He is nearing a return to full fitness, having struggled with an injury picked up on international duty, and now has a set-up around him that will give him a far greater chance of firing on a regular basis.
Earlier this season, he was asked to play the role of a lone striker – something he was not accustomed to and not well equipped for. Now, with the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Jordon Ibe all ready to fire behind him, or alongside him, he has a chance.
For the first time since the former Manchester City and AC Milan star arrived at the club, barring one game against Tottenham in August, Balotelli and Sturridge are both fit at the same time. The former needs to be given a chance.
His future at Anfield is far from secure and he’s not totally blameless for his lack of goals, but after a much needed confidence boost, Liverpool need to test him and see if he’s worth having around.
If he continues to get himself into the right place at the right time, as he did on Tuesday, he could become an invaluable poacher of goals. He’s proved during his career that he can finish, and that’s all that has been lacking from Liverpool’s play in recent weeks – someone to end all their good moves.
Balotelli will find it hard to revive his Liverpool career to that extent, but it he’s passionate about succeeding at Anfield, there will be no better chance for him than right now.