Mario Balotelli is putting together an awfully impressive collection of nearly moments in his Liverpool career. Two or three from his debut against Spurs, a wide-open goal and late backheel that almost won it against QPR, and today he had another three chances added to the wow that would have been awesome also wow how did he not score there pile. It's just not coming off for him right now, and while he's getting himself into goalscoring positions, the goal-scoring part has proven hard to come by.
It's unfortunate, because for all the supposed baggage--and emerging, enraging narrative that's developed in recent weeks--he brought with him, his Liverpool career has been pedestrian. No problems on the pitch other than the lack of goals, nothing of actual note off the pitch other than manufactured controversies and hand-wringing. He just hasn't scored goals, and it's made him an easy target.
Thankfully Brendan Rodgers sought to ease some of the burden post-match, noting that for all his faults in front of goal, the 24-year-old's level of effort hasn't been lacking:
"I thought Mario worked very well and very hard. He maybe thought he wasn't going to play today. You saw that he is working hard and at the moment he's doing his best. Unfortunately, it's about confidence sometimes when you don't get the goal. He kept going and kept getting into the areas, and I thought he and Rickie Lambert worked very well when [the substitutes] came on.
"I've only been working with him for a short period of time. I gauge it, first and foremost, on the training field. He puts himself out to train every single day - he's out there wanting to be better and wanting to improve. Goalscorers will tell you they get their energy and confidence from the ball hitting the back of the net. It's just not quite happening for him in terms of that, but all I ask is that they do their best. You saw today's reaction, he worked very hard and he was just unlucky we didn't get the goal. He'll be disappointed he hasn't scored."
It's a slightly different tone than the manager struck pre-match, when most of the talk was about whether or not Balotelli had much of a future at Anfield beyond January. That still might be the case (or might not, depending on how much you read into Rodgers' earlier comments), but after a day that saw the Italian work his socks of for little reward, it's at least nice to see the manager offer very public support.
Especially given the manner in which some supporters discuss the player, as well as the type of commentary that most of us were exposed to for today's match, which was mostly one diatribe after another about Mario Balotelli being a problem child. That's anything but the truth, as most are aware that the striker is but one of many problems in this Liverpool squad, and it's time attention is paid to those other concerns.