Rodgers stands by Super Mario as he continues to play down penalty furore
Carl Markham Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has given his full backing to striker Mario Balotelli over the penalty furore which blew up in the 1-0 win over Besiktas in the Europa League. Rodgers insists the Italy international was right to step in front of Jordan Henderson, captain on the night and designated pre-match taker, even if it looked unseemly at the time. Injured captain Steven Gerrard, as a guest television pundit, called Balotelli "mischievous" and "disrespectful", but Rodgers said the 24-year-old - who has scored 27 out of 29 from the spot in his career - was following the long-established order agreed earlier in the season. "There has probably been a lot more of a drama been made out of it than it actually was," said the Reds boss. "With the players who were initially on the pitch, Jordan was our nominated taker. "But if Jordan and Steven and Mario are on the pitch at the same time, we would normally have Steven and Mario as the penalty-takers. "History shows he (Balotelli) has scored nearly 30 penalties in big games so he is an outstanding penalty-taker, but none of them were on (at the start) so you have to nominate someone. "Jordan was happy enough to take it but he gave it to Mario." Henderson, Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge were all involved in discussions before the 85th-minute penalty against the Turkish visitors, and Gerrard's post-match comments fanned the flames with Rodgers admitting that is something he will deal with within the team. "That is my job to manage that, it is what I do behind the scenes every day," he added. "You see from the way the team has been playing recently the respect and commitment they show for each other. "I always assign responsibility every single game and I think this is the first time that has reared its head. "I think there was a bit of a kerfuffle around it because they just wanted to make sure he (Balotelli) was happy to take it but that was it really."