Liverpool vs Everton reaction: Mario Balotelli attitude impresses Brendan Rodgers

Reds manager impressed with display despite failure to find the back of the net

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The Independent Football

Brendan Rodgers praised Mario Balotelli's attitude during his first Merseyside derby.

The Italian, who had a Liver bird sculpted into his hair for the occasion, is yet to score a Barclays Premier League goal for the Reds and could not take advantage of a number of decent opportunities.

Balotelli should have made it 2-0 moments after Steven Gerrard opened the scoring but he hit the bar from close range and Everton went on to secure a 1-1 draw through Phil Jagielka's stunning late strike.

Balotelli has a reputation as a hot-head and was the target of a number of robust challenges but did not react and was heavily involved in the game.

Rodgers said: "He needs to focus on the game and I made that point beforehand. This is a game where emotions are high and it can be difficult. But you're going to be in with a greater chance to win as long as you've got 11 players on the field.

"And I think overall in his time here he's responded very, very well. I thought his work-rate was excellent. His pressure, his physique at the top end of the field for us was very good and he looked like he could get a goal.

"I was disappointed he didn't score but, as long as he's working well and working hard, he will get goals."

 

There were a number of impressive Liverpool performers, with Alberto Moreno, Gerrard, Jordan Henderon and Raheem Sterling all standing out along with boyhood Everton fan Adam Lallana.

The midfielder was also making his Merseyside derby debut and would have opened the scoring early on but for a fine save from Tim Howard.

Lallana was a constant thorn in Everton's side, and Rodgers said: "I thought he was outstanding.

"To come into his first derby game and play with that quality and that intensity. And he played the whole game during the week against Middlesbrough, penalties and all, so to deliver that performance was great because it shows he's getting fitter and fitter with each game."

Everton boss Roberto Martinez sprang a surprise ahead of the game by naming veteran full-back Tony Hibbert in the starting line-up, with Seamus Coleman still not recovered from a head injury.

It was the first time the 33-year-old had started a Premier League game for close to two years, and when Martinez deemed he had run out of legs he sent on 20-year-old Tyias Browning for his debut.

The Spaniard praised both, saying: "Tony played in the Capital One Cup and he played 90 minutes. Obviously it's a matter of having the match fitness. He's fully fit. He's been working really hard on the training ground and I think we needed his experience.

"Seamus Coleman had a late fitness test, we gave him until the last second, and it was just the right opportunity for Tony to bring a bit of understanding, a bit of knowhow.

"Once he ran out of steam, Tyias Browning on his full debut showed incredible composure, great pace, phenomenal defending and I thought he gave us real penetration down that side. Between Tony and Tyias, they did a terrific job for us."

Browning has been at Everton since he was 10 and hopes he showed enough to earn more chances in the near future.

"It was more nerves than anything," he said of his debut. "It's a big game to come into. But I think I did well when I came on and it's a good result for us in the end.

"I was just pleased that the manager trusted me to do a job. It's been 10 years. Hopefully there's many more to come."

The game had an unexpected denouement when centre-back Jagielka let fly from 25 yards with an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

Browning admitted he was shocked to see Jagielka's effort arrow past Simon Mignolet, saying: "I couldn't even celebrate. I didn't know what to do. I don't think Jags knew what he was doing either.

"He deserved it. He's helped the team a lot and I was happy for him."

PA

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