Gerrard: that was disrespectful, Mario

Gerrard: that was disrespectful, Mario
IN A SPOT: Liverpool’s Mario Balotelli scoring the winner from the spot against Besiktas, after claiming the ball from designated taker and captain of the night, Jordan Henderson.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes Mario Balotelli showed "disrespect" and was "mischievous" by taking the match-winning penalty against Beskitas ahead of designated spot-kick taker Jordan Henderson.

The Italy international confidently stroked home an 85th-minute penalty to give the Reds a 1-0 Europa League win over Besiktas at Anfield yesterday morning (Singapore time).

However it was what happened in the moments beforehand, with Balotelli appearing to overrule captain-on-the-night Henderson, that caused controversy.

Gerrard, working as a pundit on ITV after he was ruled out of the last-32 first-leg tie with a thigh injury, insisted Balotelli was wrong to assume the penalty responsibilities and defy manager Brendan Rodgers' team orders.

"Basically Henderson should have taken that penalty," Gerrard said.

"I think Mario has been a bit mischievous by stepping in front of him and going against what the manager's plans before the game.

"Credit to him, he's scored, but it would be very interesting in that dressing room if he had missed that penalty.

"I think we'd have had a similar situation to what happened at Everton a couple of weeks ago (when Kevin Mirallas stepped ahead of regular taker Leighton Baines and missed).

RULES ARE RULES

"It's not nice to see when players are taking it off each other and, for me, rules are rules and codes are codes inside a dressing room and, when a manager selects a penalty taker, that player should take it.

"Jordan is the captain and Mario showed Jordan a bit of disrespect there, but he's scored a very important goal."

Balotelli, a £16-million ($33m) summer signing from AC Milan, played down the controversy, writing on Instagram: "Thank you Hendo for letting me take the penalty. Stop drama now. We won, that's what counts. We are a team and especially we are Liverpool. Come on guys."

Manager Brendan Rodgers tried to brush off the row, joking Gerrard should have taken it, but he did not wish to take it any further.

When asked to clarify who should have taken the penalty he said: "I am clarifying we won the game 1-0.

"I have a number of outstanding penalty takers with Jordan and Mario and Rickie Lambert.

"We won the game."

Besiktas boss Slaven Bilic, meanwhile, was disappointed his side could not hold out for a draw, but he was far from downbeat.

"Of course when you concede a late penalty, you are gutted and, from our point of view, it wouldn't have been unfair if it finished 0-0 or 1-1," he said.

"We deserved a bit more but, from their side, they deserved maybe the one goal. From the bench, they had really class players like Balotelli and (Raheem) Sterling.


This article was first published on Feb 21, 2015.
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