Liverpool managed to secure a vital first leg win against Besiktas in their Europa League tie on Thursday night and while the goal came late, it will not matter to their fans or manager Brendan Rodgers – with the second leg away from home now looking far more comfortable.
That is not what most people are talking about however – rather the penalty that led to the goal, which was scored by Mario Balotelli is dominating all the headlines.
Balotelli, who has a sublime record in penalty shootouts and has taken them in far more pressurised circumstances wanted to step up and be the man for his team.
That caused a bit of a row – and while it was far from the Leighton Baines / Kevin Mirallas fiasco of a few weeks back, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge were not happy.
Henderson seemed to be the designated penalty taker but after a discussion with Balotelli, handed the ball over and saw the Italian score. All’s well that ends well? No, and that is because of Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard.
The midfielder was in the ITV studio talking about the game he was missing through injury and rather than taking the opportunity to defuse the situation, point to Balotelli’s record when it comes to penalties and focus on the result, took the chance to make his rather harsh feelings on Balotelli known at full time.
Gerrard noted: ‘Jordan should have taken the penalty. Rules are rules. It should have been Henderson. Mario has been a bit mischievous.
‘Credit to Mario, he’s scored, but it’s not nice to see when footballers are arguing.
‘Jordan is the captain and Mario showed Jordan a bit of disrespect there, but he’s scored a very important goal.
‘I think six or seven players would have wanted to take that penalty so if they all say they are taking it, what happens then? Rules are in place for a reason.’
Putting aside if Balotelli was right or wrong to take the penalty, the fact that Gerrard even put himself in the position where he would be expected to comment on his teammates and say things that you would normally only say in the dressing room speaks volumes.
When a player hangs up his boots, it is all well and good for him to become a pundit – Gary Neville has shown how well that can work (his brother, not so much) – players can even offer their views on a game their side is not involved in. There is not much harm or potential for conflict there and when they are injured or suspended, why not.
One thing they absolutely should not do however is agree to go on TV and talk about their team during a game. Unless they want to stick to the party line and be as magnolia as most people’s walls, there is no way it can end well.
Imagine if a Liverpool player made a massive error at the back and cost the side a goal. Would their skipper, the man they look to for support and encouragement, then single them out on the replays in the studio? What about if a player was sent off. You can see how it goes – and the Balotelli incident was case in point.
Players need to realise they should not be talking about their club and teammates on TV as a pundit and if they feel the desperate need to, at least show some diplomacy and sort their issues out in-house.
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