Liverpool are into the last eight of the Capital One Cup and Mario Balotelli had a lot to do with it. Essentially, the events late at Anfield yesterday are exactly what everyone connected with the club want to see from the talented Italian striker. Be that inspiration and provide something, anything to ignite the mood in the ground and lift the spirits of his comrades. A heavy responsibility? Maybe but goals have seem to have that effect.
It is clear that much has been written, said, and discussed about the former Manchester City striker and it has been completely negative of late. Mario Balotelli went into the game against Swansea City with the assistant manager appearing to be completely convinced in the worth, application, and desire of the player. At a time when Mario Balotelli's confidence is low after scoring just one goal since his arrival, words of supports must have been welcome.
"Mario works hard and he is a great talent," Rodgers' number two said. "Every day on the training pitch you can see he wants to do more. At the end he is always asking to do more things. Everything will be alright with Mario because you know his hunger is there and he wants to win. "After every training session he wants to do more shooting, passing, it’s the same with Lazar. Mario wants to do everything to work on his game and us as coaches will help him that way."
That's what struggling players need before a game and it must be immensely satisfying to witness a positive result after those words were delivered. Whether such words were beneficial doesn't detract from the sensible practice of providing support to players such as young Mario and young Lazar. While the Serbian international's performance wasn't one of the better performances on a dry evening in Merseyside, somebody scored his second goal of the season with the promise of more to come. Colin Pascoe's positivity continued after the game.
He’s working hard in training and got his just rewards coming on and getting the goal. He worked so hard, I’m glad he got the goal. He was sent in because he caught his studs in the ground and was sent in to see the physio to check his knee was ok. He felt his knee but as you can see he came on and his knee looked alright. It’s great for Mario that he wants to work all the time. That’s the way he is. He’s a young lad, he’s a tremendous talent and he wants to work on his movement and work on his finishing. He wants to do that every session so it was great for him to get a goal.
The next game is away to a Newcastle side that has found a couple of consecutive victories in the Premier League. Alan Pardew's men have the task of finding a way past Manchester City later in the day as League Cup action continues. Perhaps the will of The Football Gods moves Newcastle towards purpose of extra time and penalties. The extra day to rest may assist Liverpool's ambitions but final third production is absolutely critical for this side. Mario Balotelli has the same task as an other Liverpool striker but of the ones available in Sturridge's absence, it's different.
There's an expectation; a hope. Mario? He can do it.