Last night, a furor was unleashed when Steven Gerrard, acting as a pundit for Liverpool's match against Besiktas in the Europa League, suggested that Mario Balotelli had "disrespected" Jordan Henderson and was being "devious" by taking the penalty earned late in the match. Among the other various fan reactions, a debate sprang up about who Liverpool's penalty takers are, especially with Gerrard out injured, and the general consensus seemed the be that surely it had to be Balotelli's penalty to take, right?
According to Brendan Rodgers -- you know, Liverpool's manager and the guy who knows such things -- that's exactly the case.
"It's very clear who the penalty takers are," Rodgers said in a press conference this morning. "When Steven plays he is number one. With the players on at the start of the [Besiktas] game Jordan was nominated penalty taker. But if Jordan, Steven and Mario are on the pitch at the same time then we normally have Steven or Mario take penalties."
So that pretty well confirms the theory at hand: Henderson was indeed the penalty-taker at the start of the match with neither Gerrard or Balotelli on the pitch, but once the Italian striker stepped on to the Anfield grass, the job was his. So thanks for kicking up that dust cloud over nothing, Gerrard.
For Henderson's part, Rodgers was happy with how his vice captain and heir-apparent to Gerrard's captaincy handled things. "Jordan showed his maturity and what a team player he is," Rodgers said. "He respected that Mario is an outstanding penalty taker and was happy to give it to him to take."
Sure, the exchange wasn't completely smooth thanks to a moment of hesitation, further complicated by Daniel Sturridge getting involved in things, but once the ball was in Balotelli's hands, Henderson seemed committed to the course. After all, it's hard to argue with one of the best penalty-takers in Europe taking over late in a knockout round match. Henderson realized that and went with what's best for his squad, which is the mark of a true captain in the making.