The Liverpool fan who was seen grabbing Mario Balotelli during the game against Manchester United has claimed he did it to stop the Italian getting sent off.
Shaun Leatherbarrow is a season ticket holder at Anfield and sits in row one of the Centenary Stand. He became a social media sensation after he was seen holding the Liverpool striker back. Balotelli had been thrown into the advertising boards by Chris Smalling and looked ready to confront the Red Devils defender over the tackle.
Already on a yellow card, it would not have taken much to convince Martin Atkinson to give Balotelli his marching orders. It would have left Liverpool with nine men following the red card given to Steven Gerrard in the 46th minute.
Holding him back
Mr Leatherbarrow admits he was was worried Balotelli would get himself into trouble and told the Liverpool star to calm down before releasing him. Luckily, he was assisted by a policeman, who normally works at Anfield on match days.
“I could tell from Mario’s body language he was ready to react and I knew he’d already had a yellow card"
He told the Liverpool Echo: “The way I saw it Smalling sort of shoved Mario off the pitch and Mario grabbed him just to have something to grab on to.
“I could tell from Mario’s body language he was ready to react and I knew he’d already had a yellow card.
“I was saying ‘calm down, leave it, leave it and he was saying ‘OK, OK’. I’m only 5ft 8in and he’s a big lad so I was struggling to get my arms around him.
Arm of the law
“Peter, the lad who sits next to me at the ground, helped me and he’s a police officer who sometimes works at Anfield on match days.
“Afterwards all the lads were laughing and patting me on the back as well as having a go at Smalling.”
Unfortunately, Balotelli could not help Liverpool get back into the game as they succumbed to defeat against their top four rivals. A Juan Mata brace proved too much to turnaround for the ten men of Liverpool.
Daniel Sturridge grabbed a late consolation but a missed penalty from Wayne Rooney made the game seem closer than it actually was. It leaves Liverpool struggling to make up ground in the top four race.
A win against Arsenal will give them a significant boost but a loss in north London would all but rule them out of the race.
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