For the second time this month, Mario Balotelli came off the bench to score a winner for Liverpool — this time in a Europa League match against Besiktas. And for the second time this month, Balotelli is getting criticized for how he did it.
With Steven Gerrard out of the squad for the night and serving as a pundit for ITV, Jordan Henderson was serving as captain. But when Liverpool were awarded a penalty in the 85th minute with the match still scoreless, Balotelli insisted on taking it ahead of Henderson since he’s only missed two in his entire career.
Balotelli converted the penalty and gave Liverpool a 1-0 win, but Gerrard still had a problem with the way it played out. And instead of having a quiet word with Balotelli back at Melwood, he decided to air his disproval in front of the ITV cameras.
Gerrard: “Jordan should have taken the penalty. Rules are rules. It should have been Henderson. Mario has been a bit mischievous.”
— Eurosport.com (@EurosportCom_EN) February 19, 2015
Steven Gerrard continued: “Mario’s shown Jordan a bit of disrespect there.” — Eurosport.com (@EurosportCom_EN) February 19, 2015
27 – Mario Balotelli has scored 27 of his 29 penalties for club and country (incl. shootouts). Super.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 19, 2015
However, Henderson didn’t seem too bothered by it in his post-match interview, saying, “Obviously I wanted the penalty, but Mario felt confident and he’s took big penalties before. […] I felt confident in Mario, so he got the nod.” Balotelli, meanwhile, posted a picture on Instagram of him hugging Henderson with a caption that reads, “Thank you hendo for let me take the penalty.. Stop drama now. We won that’s what it count. We are a team and expecially [sic] we are Liverpool. Come on guys.”
Thank you hendo for let me take the penalty.. Stop drama now. We won that’s what it count. We are a… http://t.co/aUtsFglN6g
— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) February 19, 2015
When Mario scored the winner against Spurs nine days earlier, it was Phil Neville who criticized him for not celebrating, which the former Everton captain interpreted as a lack of team spirit instead of Balotelli’s normal reaction to scoring.
Mario Balotelli is the only man on the planet who is consistently criticized for doing his job correctly. Even by his own teammates.