Updated: Sunday, 31 August 2014 22:44 | By Agence France-Presse

Balotelli makes winning debut as Reds rout Spurs

Liverpool rolled out the red carpet for Mario Balotelli as they marked the Italy striker's debut with an impressive 3-0 win over Tottenham on Sunday.


Balotelli makes winning debut as Reds rout Spurs

Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard (R) celebrates scoring a penalty against Tottenham Hotspur with striker Mario Balotelli (L), at London's White Hart Lane on August 31, 2014 - by Olly Greenwood

Balotelli started as the centre of attention at White Hart Lane on his return to the Premier League after a £16 million ($26 million) transfer from AC Milan.

But the controversial former Manchester City player was eventually overshadowed by a  majestic display from his new team-mates which emphasised they can thrive despite the sale of star striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona.

Balotelli delivered a typically erratic show, offering glimpses of his talent but also missing several chances before being replaced in the 61st minute.

But his presence seemed to revitalise Liverpool after Monday's loss at Manchester City and Raheem Sterling opened the scoring early in the first half before Steven Gerrard's penalty soon after the interval was followed by Alberto Moreno's solo effort.

Brendan Rodgers' 100th match in charge of Liverpool brought his 56th victory, equalling the records of Bill Shankly and Rafael Benitez over the same period, and the Reds boss can expect many more memorable afternoons on the evidence on a scintillating display which ended Tottenham's four-match winning run in ruthless style.

Rodgers is determined to curb the worst of the temperamental Balotelli's excesses and has already insisted life at Anfield won't become 'the Mario show'.

But Balotelli, who famously unveiled a t-shirt that read 'why always me' after scoring in a Manchester derby, was well aware that Sunday's clash was all about him.

He was the last Liverpool player to emerge from the tunnel before kick-off, trailing behind his team-mates with a grin on his face as photographers crowded around him.

The 24-year-old had scored on his debuts for City, AC Milan and Inter Milan, and he almost extended that sequence in the third minute.

Daniel Sturridge floated a perfect cross to the far post, where the Italian climbed above Danny Rose to power in a header that forced a good stop from Hugh Lloris.

Rather than rue that miss, Liverpool took it as an encouraging sign that Tottenham's defence could be breached with just a little more precision.

And Rodgers' side produced a brilliant move to take the lead in the eighth minute.

Jordan Henderson started the blistering raid when he helped the ball onto Sturridge and embarked on a lung-bursting run into the Tottenham penalty area, where he slipped a first-time cross to the far-post for Sterling to convert with a fine finish from a tight angle.

Although Emmanuel Adebayor lobbed over from a good position, Liverpool were calling the shots and Balotelli should have scored when he glanced a header wide from Gerrard's free-kick.

Balotelli was on the receiving end of a well-timed crunching tackle from Eric Dier and responded in theatrical fashion, rolling around as though shot before quickly returning to the fray.

Given another chance to open his Liverpool account after Lloris raced out and scuffed a clearance straight to him, Balotelli's snatched shot flew well wide from 30 yards -- drawing mocking cheers from the Spurs fans and a wry smile from Rodgers.

Rodgers might not have been so indulgent if Nacer Chadli had seized a golden opportunity to equalise when Adebayor's aerial threat lured two Liverpool defenders out of position.

But Mignolet made an excellent save to deny the Belgian and that proved the decisive moment as Liverpool doubled their advantage four minutes into the second half.

Joe Allen tumbled in the penalty area after a tug from Dier, with the midfielder's exaggerated fall persuading referee Phil Dowd to award a spot-kick which Gerrard calmly stroked past Lloris.

With Tottenham throwing players forward in search of a lifeline, Moreno made it three on the hour.

Andros Townsend lost possession and former Sevilla left-back Moreno ran half the length of the pitch unchallenged before driving a fine strike into the far corner for his first Liverpool goal.

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