TERRACE TALK: Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers should give Mario Balotelli a break

If Koeman wants to blame anyone, why not Balotelli? Everybody else does, writes Steven Kelly.

TERRACE TALK: Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers should give Mario Balotelli a break

People within football genuinely believe fans are thick. It’s one of their meanest, most disagreeable traits. If someone lines your pockets with squillions of pounds, try not to insult their intelligence as well.

I’ve not been a fan of Balotelli’s from day one but you’d think he could look back on recent contributions and expect a few plaudits from the boss. Yeah, expect away.

Why Always Me? The back of that t-shirt could now read “...even after I’ve come on 3 times, scored 2 winners and made another in a single week”. It all felt unfair and disgustingly ungrateful.

Gerrard was the first to chuck him under a bus, when nobody in the ground wanted Jordan Henderson to take that penalty against Besiktas.

Not even Jordan Henderson.

Then there’s friend to the stars (as long as they’re English) Jamie Redknapp, putting the boot in on “No-Mates Mario”. It’s time for a scalding hot bath when you’re infected with Mourinho-agreement-itis, but a pretty boy in a shiny suit with crayoned stubble does not a football expert make.

Finally, when you thought even Rodgers might eventually have a good word to say for the Italian, we get the old workrate ruse. Fact: Balotelli was excellent on Thursday night and anyone pretending otherwise is an agenda-driven dullard.

It smacked of the time Houllier and Thompson couldn’t wait to see off Robbie Fowler, and it stank, to be honest.

This all comes at a time when Liverpool really are on a roll. It’s also a time when the workload is squeezing the squad till the pips pop and the pops pip. All hands on deck! If the cup runs keep on running, they’ll be crawling out of the tunnel on their hands and knees soon.

Balotelli just kept Gerrard on course for one of his “dream finals” and that’s the thanks he gets? I’m reaching a point where the words “let’s give him a great send-off in May” trigger murderous fantasies. If he wants to leave with his legacy tarnished, he’s going the right way about it.

The kerfuffle over the penalty also kept Sturridge’s selfishness off the back pages. A few other egos needed puncturing in L4 but Rodgers chose the easy scapegoat and it does him little credit at a time when his stock as a coach is rising again rapidly.

You want to be a rentaquote panto clown like The Spesh, go ahead. For a side that’s won more games in the last eight weeks than it had in the previous 18, we really shouldn’t be discussing this nonsense.

Southampton would have been up for it, even without Lovren’s presence. Sakho injured? If you say so, but he was bound to need a rest soon and the thought of Dejan going from Bruce Banner to Hulk (don’t make me angry) at St Mary’s must have been tempting.

Stupid, but tempting. The subsequent clean sheet saw lots of eyes rubbed in disbelief. Or was that the powerful challenge to male heterosexuality triggered by Can and Pelle’s hair-off? Mmmmmm…

Thank God for Skrtel, one of the season’s largely unsung heroes. Lovren fell over at one stage and somehow still cleared the danger. Funny, when it’s going for you not against you. Coutinho’s wonder-goal just made the home fans screech more for daft free kicks and penalties, always a sign fans know they’re up against it. It was just like Goodison.

Rodgers’ changes in the second half made more sense, as the additions of Moreno and Sturridge did us big favours.

A similar sort of win at this ground last year made many supporters truly believe good things were possible. Gritty, bit lucky, hard on the nerves at times but ultimately comfortable.

Mario was left to stew on the bench, knowing full well managers can say and do as they please. So long as they win.

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