Liverpool vs Swansea City: Mario Balotelli survives injury scare to become saviour in League Cup win

Home side's assistant manager reveals striker 'felt something in his knee' during warm-up, before coming off bench to rescue tie

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Liverpool assistant manager Colin Pascoe revealed that Mario Balotelli had suffered an injury scare in the warm-up before arriving from the bench to help clinch a League Cup tie from the brink of disaster.

Balotelli was on the field for only seven minutes before he turned up in the six-yard box to get onto Fabio Borini’s cross and poke home a priceless goal: his second for the club. “He was sent in [early from the substitutes’ warm-up] because he twisted his studs in the ground. He felt something in his knee so he was sent in to see the physio,” Pascoe said. “We had to assess him. He felt something in his knee. He is fine but he went to take a precaution.”

Brendan Rodgers’ assistant also said that Balotelli, who has an inclination to drift wide in attacking phases of the game, had been working at getting into dangerous central areas. “It is great for Mario he wants to work all the time. He is a resilient lad with a tremendous talent,” Pascoe said. “He wants to work on his movement and his finishing. That is Mario. He is working hard and he got his just rewards coming on and getting the goal.”

Swansea’s hopes of holding the lead they had taken into the last four minutes of normal time were compounded by defender Federico Fernandez being sent off, moments after the Balotelli goal. Though Fernandez seemed to have launched into a two-footed challenge on Philippe Coutinho, Pascoe said he thought the Swansea player should not have been dismissed. “I can see why they are not happy,” Pascoe said. “I didn’t think it was a sending off. I think they both slipped. It is unfortunate for Swansea he got sent off.”

Swansea manager Garry Monk also felt it was unjust, though he avoided the kind of attack on officialdom which he had shown at Stoke two weeks ago, when he accused Victor Moses of cheating. “If anything, the Liverpool player’s foot is higher than ours,” Monk said. “How he saw that as a red card… Keith [Stroud] is a good referee. Hopefully he will see sense and rescind it. I said to the boys, these decisions are happening. Hopefully they will stop happening but if not we do it the hard way. It is not about me. I am not here to have a go at refs but these decisions, it’s being proven week after week, I am not talking rubbish, I am talking sense. I was emotional at Stoke but what is the point, it is not getting me anywhere.

He indicated that Swansea would appeal the decision. “If everyone has sense and if you look at the situation - I have watched it about 30 times - hopefully he will rescind that. He is a sensible guy; he is a good ref.”

Monk did not deny that the failure to deal with Coutinho’s free-kick, which goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel flapped at and Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren headed home, was poor. “With a couple of minutes to go, we should see that out. It is a poor goal. We should defend it better. It is disappointing to see that go in,” he said.

But he could reflect on a performance which revealed Liverpool’s frailties. “We have got some very good players but you look at the size and quality of their squad compared to ours and I am talking about that we should come away from here with a win, it shows how well we are doing. They put a performance we can be very proud of. Some better defending for the first goal and a better decision and we would be going away with a win.”