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Gerrard accuses Balotelli of disrespect after penalty swipe

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard accused team mate Mario Balotelli of showing disrespect after the Italian found himself at the centre of controversy despite scoring a winning penalty against Besiktas on Thursday. Balotelli stroked the ball home in the 85th minute to secure a 1-0 win at Anfield but only after wrestling the ball off stand-in skipper and designated penalty-taker Jordan Henderson.

The two exchanged heated words before Balotelli fired home and Gerrard, injured and working as a TV pundit, was not amused. “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. I think Jordan has handled the situation very well. He can see that Mario really wanted to score. Jordan walked away at the right moment and handled his post-match interview very well. 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,” he told ITV Sport.

Balotelli, a regular penalty-taker at his previous clubs, had only been on the pitch for 22 minutes. After the goal, Balotelli sought out Henderson in what appeared to be an effort to make amends, while the England midfielder sought to play down the incident in his post-match interview. “I wanted the penalty, Mario felt confident and he has taken big penalties before. Everyone wants to take them. I felt confident in Mario, he has taken big penalties before and he got the nod,” he said.

Coach Rodgers backs Mario
Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers on Friday backed striker Mario Balotelli over the penalty controversy. “There has probably been a lot more of a drama been made out of it than it actually was. With the players who were initially on the pitch last night Jordan was our nominated taker. But if Jordan and Steven and Mario are on the pitch at the same time we would normally have Steven and Mario as the penalty-takers. History shows he (Balotelli) has scored nearly 30 penalties in big games so he is an outstanding penalty-taker, but none of them were on (at the start) so you have to nominate someone. 

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