He didn’t score, but Mario Balotelli was in the thick of the action as Liverpool beat Tottenham 3-0 at White Hart Lane on the Italian’s Reds debut.
In what was his first competitive match since Luis Suarez bit Georgio Chiellini in the Italy v Uruguay game at the World Cup, Balotelli lasted 60 minutes as Brendan Rodgers’ side delivered a fine performance.
Here’s the minute-by-minute guide to his hour in the pitch:
0 mins: Spurs get the game underway, and Mario does a little jog.
3 mins: Almost the dream start for the new man, as Daniel Sturridge’s cross from the left picks him out around four yards out, but he can only send his header straight at a relieved Hugo Lloris. The postman failed to deliver his post.
5 mins: An increasingly lively looking Mario looks to start a Liverpool attack but he’s fouled by Danny Rose. Gets up, looks unflustered.
8 mins: Mario takes a watching brief as Liverpool take the lead. Sturridge plays in Jordan Henderson, whose precise cross along the six yard box misses out the loitering Balotelli and instead finds Raheem Sterling, who strikes a low effort into the net. Mario jogs after his exuberant teammate.
11 mins: Wins a header ahead of Jan Vertonghen, knocking the Belgian over as he does so. Looks to be enjoying this.
14 mins: His second gilt-edged headed chance, and it’s arguably a better one. Steven Gerrard’s free-kick finds Balotelli at the back post, but he can only nod wide of it. Should have at least got it on target.
16 mins: Mario drops deep and backheels a pass to Javier Manquillo. Booed by the Tottenham fans.
18 mins: A break into a run, which ends abruptly as he slips and allows Younes Kaboul to clear. This invites the Spurs fans to move on from boos to signing about Gerrard.
19 mins: A clever little jink inside is ended when Christian Eriksen tackles him.
21 mins: Who is this player? Balotelli works hard to win ball back, even sprinting at one point.
24 mins: Runs onto Henderson pass into the corner, and is then crunched into by a fierce Eric Dier tackle from behind. Home fans erupt in joy, but Mario dusts himself down and gets on with it.
28 mins: Balotelli is back in his own penalty area as Spurs press. No, really.
30 mins: First sign of proper link-up play with Sturridge, as a great backheel from the Italian feeds the Englishman, whose shot is well saved by Lloris.
31 mins: Brilliant hold up play as Balotelli rides a challenge and feeds Sterling. As Lloris charges out to stop him, the ball rebounds to Mario and he wildly shoots from 35 yards way, way wide. Like into another postcode wide. The first bit was good though.
35 mins: Drops back, wins the ball, plays it into Sturridge.
37 mins: More good hold-up play. He wins a throw-in, stares down the Tottenham fans and wanders away contentedly. Liverpool looking to take sting out of the game.
39 mins: Good ball to Henderson.
42 mins: Noticeably drops into position on the left as Sterling has gone further forward. Rodgers applauds.
44 mins: Doubles up with Gerrard to win the ball back.
45 mins: Takes up ‘The Sheringham Position’ from Gerrard’s corner, but despite finding space he rushes his shot and smashes over the top. First clear sign of frustration, but Rodgers is seen smiling and applauding.
46 mins: Takes the kick-off with Sturridge.
49 mins: Liverpool win a penalty as Dier hauls down Joe Allen. Mario refrains from causing a scene and trying to grab the ball off Gerrard, instead watching on as the captain doubles his side’s lead.
51 mins: Commits a foul on halfway, first noticeable sign of tiredness.
56 mins: A great touch, a run and a cut inside which comes to nothing when he’s crowded out by three Spurs midfielders.
58 mins: Seen loitering near the bench, as Lazar Markovic gets ready to come on.
60 mins: Alberto Moreno sprints down the Liverpool left and bangs in the third. In the ensuing celebrations, Mario wanders towards the bench and goes off for Markovic.
61 mins – Full-time: Sits behind Rodgers as Liverpool close out their 3-0 victory. Often seen smiling, laughing and joking with his teammates. Consider ‘the gamble’ to be paying off so far!
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