Gerrard hails 'terrific' Balotelli
Published 31/08/2014 | 16:20
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard forecast Mario Balotelli could be the key to a title push after the Italian made a sharp debut in the 3-0 win at Tottenham.
After joining from AC Milan, Balotelli was handed an immediate debut and spurned several first-half chances to grab an early goal for his new team.
But Balotelli contributed well before being substituted after an hour, linking up effectively with the likes of Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge.
And Gerrard, who fired Liverpool's second goal from the penalty spot in the Premier League win, said of the former Manchester City striker: "I thought he was terrific.
"All eyes were on him today, wondering whether he was going to work hard for the team... was he going to hold the ball up for us?
"Credit to him, I thought he was terrific for an hour.
"If he plays like that for us every week and continues to improve, he could be the difference whether we compete or not."
Gerrard has found no fault in Balotelli's attitude so far, with his temperament having been called into question on several occasions during a career blighted by disciplinary problems.
"He's been terrific since he came in," Gerrard said on Sky Sports 1.
"He's worked hard and taken on all the tactics, how we play, with and without the ball.
"He'll only improve with a manager like Brendan (Rodgers), and the rest of the lads, seeing what we all do. He'll have to follow suit, that's the only option."
Gerrard remains Liverpool's first choice when it comes to penalties, but he knows Balotelli can be lethal from 12 yards too.
"I'm aware he's a terrific penalty taker," Gerrard said.
"I'm sure he'll get the chance to take some penalties for the club.
"The manager's told me if I'm not on the pitch he'll take them.
"That was a very important penalty today, because I know everyone's waiting for me to miss so they can tell me Ricky (Lambert) or Mario can be the penalty takers. But the more good penalty takers we've got, the better."
Gerrard said on Liverpool's overall commanding display at White Hart Lane: "It was very good.
"I think we're more pleased with the clean sheet than our attacking play which was superb again.
"We know we're a threat, we've got pace, we've got talented players.
"The challenge for this team is to defend better, that's what we got criticised for last year.
"Clean sheets are what we want so I'm sure the manager's going to be buzzing with the clean sheet."