Europa League Gerrard takes swipe at Balotelli over penalty row
Liverpool: Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard accused Mario Balotelli of being disrespectful after the controversial Italian striker snatched penalty-taking duties away from Jordan Henderson during Thursday's 1-0 Europa League win over Besiktas.
Gerrard was angry that Balotelli overruled Henderson when the stand-in Reds skipper tried to take an 85th-minute penalty in the last 32, first leg at Anfield. With the game goalless, Jordon Ibe won the spot-kick and England international Henderson appeared set to fulfil his role as the assigned penalty taker in the absence of the injured Gerrard. But Balotelli took the ball out of Henderson's hands, prompting an exchange of words with the Liverpool midfielder before a visibly irritated Reds striker Daniel Sturridge arrived on the scene to protest on Henderson's behalf.
Ignoring their complaints, Balotelli, who has endured a difficult time at Liverpool since his move from AC Milan last year, didn't seem bothered by the fuss as he deliberately stutter-stepped in his run-up before coolly stroking home the spot-kick. Balotelli has scored 27 of his 29 penalties for club and country throughout his career. However, Gerrard, watching from the ITV studio at Anfield in his role as a pundit, was unimpressed by Balotelli's behaviour. "Jordan should have taken the penalty.
Rules are rules. It should have been Henderson. Mario has been a bit mischievous," Gerrard said on ITV. "Credit to Mario, he's scored, but it's not nice to see when footballers are arguing. "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."
Henderson admitted that he wanted to take the penalty, but he diplomatically tried to draw a line under the incident. "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," Henderson told ITV.