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 Posted by PA Sport
Aug 31, 2014

Balotelli makes Liverpool debut as Reds ease to victory over Tottenham

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ESPN FC's Shaka Hislop gives his take on how Mario Balotelli did in his debut for the Reds.

Alberto Moreno's exquisite solo strike capped a dominant Liverpool performance as Mauricio Pochettino's perfect start to life at Tottenham came to an abrupt end.

- Delaney: Liverpool coast past Tottenham again
-  Pochettino laments 'soft' penalty
-  Gerrard hails Balotelli's Liverpool debut

Brendan Rodgers' side produced the ideal response to Monday's defeat at Manchester City, with Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard and a wonderful effort from Moreno condemning Spurs to a 3-0 loss at White Hart Lane.

The first defeat of the Pochettino era would have been worse was it not for high-profile debutant Mario Balotelli's clear rustiness on an afternoon which will have brought back painful memories of last season's humblings.

Liverpool followed up a 5-0 win at White Hart Lane with a 4-0 triumph at Anfield last term and it looked like a similar scoreline would be on the cards when Sterling swept home after a fine team move in the eighth minute.

Balotelli should have put the visitors up before that and wasted two more wonderful first-half chances, although Gerrard slotted home from the penalty spot early in the second half after Eric Dier was adjudged to have hauled back Joe Allen.

The scoreline got worse for the hosts when Moreno dispossessed substitute Andros Townsend and raced the length of the Spurs half to unleash a fine low drive as Liverpool emphatically put Monday's 3-1 loss at the Etihad Stadium behind them.

The win was a fitting way to celebrate Rodgers' 100th match at the helm - only Kenny Dalglish had a better win ratio over the same period - and victory looked likely from the outset.

Despite insisting in the build-up it would not become "the Mario Balotelli show", the pre-match focus was on the Italian who had a wonderful chance to open his account after three minutes.

The maverick striker found space to meet a Daniel Sturridge cross at the back post, only for Hugo Lloris to save his close-range header before the striker turned the rebound wide.

It was poor from Balotelli but a missed opportunity soon forgotten as Liverpool's England trio combined for a stylish opener.

Sturridge played through Jordan Henderson, whose low, driven cross was turned in at the backpost by Sterling - a team goal which will have no doubt pleased watching England manager Roy Hodgson.

Emmanuel Adebayor had a decent chance to level almost immediately when put through by Nabil Bentaleb, only for him to lift the ball onto the roof of the net.

It was a rare moment of respite as Liverpool toyed with the hosts, wasting several decent chances to pull further ahead.

Sturridge wriggled free to strike a low left-footed effort just wide, before Balotelli wasted another gilt-edged chance when failing to head on target despite being left unmarked from a Gerrard free-kick.

Adebayor was proving a nuisance as Spurs began to settle, although a wayward effort from Danny Rose was all they had to show for their improved performance.

They were still looking shaky on occasion at the back and Lloris was fortunate not to be punished for a rush of blood to the head.

Soon after saving a Sturridge pot shot, the French goalkeeper, like so many times before, burst off his line to make an interception, which he put straight at Balotelli - a chance the Italian snatched at, screwing wide of the open goal.

Balotelli was guilty of firing wildly over from a corner just before the break, which Spurs were close to going into level.

Adebayor showed good strength to flick the ball through to Nacer Chadli, although the attacker's goalbound drive was denied by Simon Mignolet.

Spurs were fortunate not to be further behind at the break but Liverpool did double their advantage four minutes into the second half.

Dier was adjudged to have pulled back Allen in the box, with Gerrard striking home the resulting penalty - a record 43rd successive spot-kick for Liverpool.

It looked a soft decision by referee Phil Dowd and one which led Pochettino to make alterations, although the introduction of Townsend immediately cost Spurs.

The dawdling winger was dispossessed by Moreno just inside the Liverpool half, with the left-back powering down the flank before letting fly across Lloris.

Balotelli was withdrawn after the Spaniard's fine solo effort, which would have been usurped as the game's best goal had the final touch matched the quality of Sterling's inspired, mazy run.

Lloris denied that tame effort and a low Sturridge strike as the tempo slowed and game petered out.

There was a worrying moment for Hodgson as Rose was replaced after picking up a knock towards the end of a match which Spurs underwhelmed.

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