Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has admitted summer signing Mario Balotelli will never match Luis Suarez's Anfield impact.
Rodgers backed the Italy striker to shrug off "unfair" criticism and end his six-game Premier League drought however, despite Balotelli missing another glorious chance in Sunday's 3-2 win at QPR.
The Liverpool boss said Balotelli's early Reds career has been blighted by comparisons with Uruguay forward Suarez, who completed a summer transfer to Barcelona.
The former Swansea manager bristled at suggestions Balotelli could have missed another sitter if Steven Caulker had not scored the decisive own goal.
QPR 2 Liverpool 3 player ratings
QPR 2 Liverpool 3 player ratings
1/22 QPR: Alex McCarthy
Did a solid job deputising for Rob Green – little he could do about any of Liverpool’s goals. 6/10
2/22 Nedum Onuoha
Hardly tested during the first half before going off with an injury. 6
3/22 Richard Dunne
At fault for the Reds’ opener – didn’t adjust his feet quickly enough and turned Sterling’s effort into his own goal. 5
4/22 Steven Caulker
Scored the match-winning goal… at the wrong end. Unfortunate, having worked hard to keep his side in touch as Liverpool threatened to run away with the game having gone 1-0 up. 5
5/22 Yun Suk-Young
Solid performance apart from losing concentration for Liverpool’s opener – defended capably and provided width down the left as QPR dominated the first half – should keep his starting place. 6
6/22 Mauricio Isla
A real threat down the right in the first half, forced to move backwards by Onuoha’s withdrawal at half-time. 6
7/22 Karl Henry
Bullish performance in the centre of midfield. Bullied his more illustrious opponents at times. 7
Influential for 60 minutes before going off injured – his departure coincided with Liverpool taking control of the game. 7
9/22 Leroy Fer
Should have given his side the lead in the first half as he twice hit the bar with great chances – aside from that played well. 6
10/22 Bobby Zamora
The captain’s physicality was a threat to the Liverpool defence right from the opening moment – laid on chances for Austin and Fer that should have been taken. 8
11/22 Charlie Austin
A threat to the Liverpool defence throughout, could have got himself on the score sheet, but did well to set up Vargas’ first. 7
12/22 Liverpool: Simon Mignolet
Another shaky performance – made some good saves but looked extremely vulnerable at times. 5/10
13/22 Glen Johnson
Looked a little rusty on his return to the starting XI from injury – helped prevent a goal with some last ditch defending in the first half and crossed for Dunne’s own goal. 6
14/22 Martin Skrtel
The enforcer of Liverpool’s back four was completely bullied by Zamora and can count himself fortunate (or unfortunate) if he keeps his starting place against Real Madrid on Wednesday. 5
15/22 Dejan Lovren
Unable to handle the inspired Zamora until he went off – unconvincing. 5
16/22 Jose Enrique
Caused a lot of trouble by Isla in the first half – unable to impact the game going forward. 5
17/22 Jordan Henderson
One of few Liverpool players who could be reasonably satisfied with his performance. His mixture of effort and quality helped to keep the Reds in the game as they struggled in the first half. 7
18/22 Emre Can
Making his first Premier League start, the German U21 international failed to stamp his authority on the game and was replaced by Joe Allen soon after the hour mark. 5
19/22 Raheem Sterling
It wasn’t his finest game, but his decisive impact speaks for itself. Played a part in all of Liverpool’s goals and can now looking forward to taking on Real Madrid on Wednesday. 7
20/22 Steven Gerrard
Pushed into a more advanced role in the first half, he was anonymous until almost giving his side the lead just before the break – a bit better when dropping deeper in the second half. 5
21/22 Adam Lallana
Gradually working his way back to full fitness, the England man struggled to get involved during the first half but his shot did lead to Balotelli’s big chance. Went off soon after the hour mark. 5
22/22 Mario Balotelli
He didn’t deserve to be on the winning side. Spurned two great opportunities and generally didn’t look after possession very well. 4
"Wow, that's being very unfair: an open goal, from six yards?" said Rodgers when quizzed if Balotelli would have converted the tap-in from Raheem Sterling's cross.
"Well okay, that's harsh. It'll drop for the boy.
"The most important thing for me is his work, the guy's doing his best; he's working really hard.
"It's just not dropping for him at the moment, but I would have said he would have finished that, if young Steven Caulker had not turned it in.
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"The criticism of him has been unfair, yes.
"And that's because he's probably seen as the direct replacement for Luis, and as I said before, Luis was irreplaceable and a real world-class talent.
"And that's not what's being asked of Mario. He's not going to be what Luis was.
"Mario's come into here, everyone knows him and they've seen him over his career, he's a great boy, and I've really enjoyed working with him.
"He wants to improve and be better, but it's not going to happen overnight."
Liverpool sneaked to victory in west London courtesy of own goals from Caulker and Richard Dunne, plus a deflected effort from Philippe Coutinho.
Eduardo Vargas twice equalised at the death for the impressive hosts, only for Sterling to force Caulker's own goal and keep QPR at the bottom of the Premier League.
Suarez's 31 goals propelled Liverpool's title challenge last term, before the controversial forward bit Italy's Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.
The lengthy ban that followed allowed him to push through his craved Barcelona move, and the 27-year-old is only now gearing up for his club debut against chief rivals Real Madrid this weekend.
Rodgers admitted Liverpool built their entire game plan around Suarez's talents, and with Daniel Sturridge sidelined for another month, that has to change.
Rodgers backed £16million AC Milan recruit Balotelli to emerge stronger after his slump, once Liverpool successfully shift their team "dynamic".
"He's not going to be what Suarez was: he's a totally different type of player," said Rodgers.
"Luis played on the shoulder, we freed up the team for him for a couple of years to exploit his qualities.
"Now we have to have a different dynamic and type of game, but (Balotelli) has got qualities, and he's really focused on making sure that he's concentrating on preparing himself to train and play.
"And then eventually the goals will come for him."