The "penny's dropped" for revived Mario Balotelli, says Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers watched Mario Balotelli break into a rare smile after his latest major contribution to a Liverpool triumph on Saturday and reflected with satisfaction: "I think the penny`s dropped."
London: Brendan Rodgers watched Mario Balotelli break into a rare smile after his latest major contribution to a Liverpool triumph on Saturday and reflected with satisfaction: "I think the penny`s dropped."
`At last`, the Liverpool manager might have been tempted to add. After the wholly underwhelming start to life at Anfield, the enigmatic Italian international has spent this week finally beginning to pull his bejewelled weight.
In midweek, he finally landed that elusive first Premier League goal for Liverpool, coming on as a late substitute to score the winner against Tottenham Hotspur.
On Saturday, he followed up his `super sub` act with another in the FA Cup fifth round tie at Crystal Palace, both earning and striking the free kick which Julian Speroni could only parry into the path of the predatory Adam Lallana.
It was a contribution, less than a quarter of an hour after he had been introduced at half time, which effectively sealed Liverpool`s 2-1 win.
It even made him break into a grin, which is more than can be said for the miserable countenance which greeted his winner against Spurs, when he looked about as cheerful as a suicidal undertaker.
Perhaps, gradually, he is learning to enjoy himself again. Perhaps, Rodgers seemed to imply afterwards, he has at last learned the value of application and hard graft.
"He`s been working really hard in training and I think now the penny`s dropped," Rodgers told BT Sport. "I assess players in training every day, no matter how good they are, and they have to put the work in.
"It has been difficult for him, because he`s come into a style maybe he`s never been in before, but one thing he has got is quality, big quality, and the last couple of games he`s come off the bench and been effective for us."
Potentially, if Balotelli has had his `Eureka!` moment, Liverpool will now be particularly well-stocked in attack as they seek to consolidate a run of 16 games with just one loss.
Because Balotelli`s resurgence comes just as Daniel Sturridge`s impressive return from injury gathered more momentum with his delightful volleyed equaliser in the comeback win.
Rodgers reckoned he had his "natural" goalscorer back. Sturridge has now scored 10 FA Cup goals in his last 12 starts but brushed the extraordinary stat aside as he shrugged: "It`s just good to help the team win, that`s all that matters."