The Liverpool fan who grabbed Mario Balotelli to stop him getting involved in a tussle with Manchester Untied defender Chris Smalling has told the Liverpool Echo: “I was worried he’d get sent off.”
With the Reds trailing their great rivals 2-1 and emblematic midfielder Steven Gerrard having already been dismissed for an off the ball incident, Shaun Leatherbarrow who sits in row one of the Centenary Stand, was keen to ensure that the Reds not go down to nine men after Balotelli started to react to a robust challenge from Smalling.
"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," he commented. “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".
“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".
Thanking the fans
In the aftermath of the incident, the controversial striker has spoken out about Liverpool supporters' helping hand by claiming, via his Facebook page, that: "Besides all efforts the game didn’t go our way. But one thing was real clear: I wasn’t alone on the pitch. YNWA".
This will no doubt come as a welcome relief for Reds fans who reacted with a mixture of surprise and disappointment when Brendan Rodgers signed Balotelli for £16 million in the summer transfer window.
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