Despite Brendan Rodgers’s insistence that this was not the ‘Mario Balotelli show', all eyes were on the big Italian forward as he started his first game for Liverpool in their comfortable away win at Spurs.
In truth, Balotelli should have opened his account on several occasions in the first half, as he missed twice with his head from close range when it looked easier to score.
What will have pleased Rodgers, despite these glaring misses was that the Italian’s work rate was faultless in the 60 minutes that he played, repeatedly tracking back to help out his defence and begin to dispel questions about his attitude.
He did look somewhat short of fitness, but once he has a few games under his belt the prospect of a fit and firing front two of Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge will be an intimidating one for any team.
In the end, Balotelli’s goalscoring prowess was not required as Liverpool put in a performance that was reminiscent of the successful times last season. They looked more comfortable in the diamond than in the 4-3-3 they have been somewhat forced into through lack of personnel so far this season and Rodgers will be pleased with the amount of attacking options he now has at his disposal.
Contribution from elsewhere
Raheem Sterling ran the show from the number ten position as the Reds quick counter attacking and sharp passing once again proved too much for Spurs. Alberto Moreno, after a difficult debut on Manchester City, looked much more at home in English football and capped an excellent all around performance with a wonderful solo break away goal.
Tottenham, in contrast, looked slow in their build up and lacking in creativity. Most of their good half chances came through Liverpool’s own defensive errors, the new centre back pairing of Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho too often careless with their passing, and this performance will serve as a lesson in the difficulties of playing the bigger teams for new manager Mauricio Pocchetino.
Liverpool have answered their critics with a convincing victory over potential top four rivals and can now go in to the international break with renewed confidence in their style and philosophy that would have been shaken after the defeat at Manchester City