Saturday 16 December 2017

Balotelli risks fans' wrath

Mario Balotelli, right, sent a congratulatory message to Raheem Sterling, left, on Tuesday
Mario Balotelli, right, sent a congratulatory message to Raheem Sterling, left, on Tuesday

Mario Balotelli risked the wrath of Liverpool fans by tweeting a supportive message to former team-mate Raheem Sterling after his debut goal for Manchester City.

Sterling, who left Anfield for City in a £49million deal last week after an acrimonious transfer saga, struck inside the first three minutes of a pre-season friendly against Roma in Australia.

Liverpool supporters were angered by some of Sterling's conduct in the months preceding the move and Balotelli, a former City player, risked inflaming tensions with a congratulatory tweet.

"Well done @sterling31! Best answer. Keep it up," the Italian wrote.

Balotelli, who had a difficult first season at Liverpool, later attempted to clarify his remarks after receiving some abusive replies.

He tweeted: "Liverpool fans are amazing but i hope@sterling31 will play at his best because he deserve it. He's a good guy young and talented.....

" him Like you always did. He gave everything to this club and respect it so i'm sad to see this. YNWA, Liverpool is a family ALWAYS."

Sterling himself was pleased with his performance after finally generating some positive headlines with his eye-catching display at the vast Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"Back doing what I love doing," the 20-year-old tweeted, along with a picture of him celebrating his goal.

Sterling struck after just two minutes and 17 seconds of a game which City eventually won 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 draw at the end of 90 minutes.

The England forward's first touch of the game was actually inauspicious, as he fell over the ball in the first minute.

But he soon made amends as he raced onto a clever chipped through-ball from the impressive Kelechi Iheanacho and coolly finished with a low shot.

Roma replied with a long-range strike from Miralem Pjanic but Iheanacho, a highly-rated 18-year-old Nigerian, then struck himself when he pounced on a wayward Ashley Cole backpass.

The Italians levelled again three minutes from time with a well-struck Adem Ljajic free-kick but City took the honours as the game went to a shootout.

Aleksandar Kolarov missed for City but goalkeeper Joe Hart came to the rescue, saving from Seydou Doumbia and Seydou Keita and impressively smashing one in himself.

Sterling was taken off at half-time - along with eight other City players - but manager Manuel Pellegrini was pleased with his display.

The Chilean told reporters: "Well it is always important for the strikers to score. He scored very early in the game.

"He just played 45 minutes. He has worked with our team for just a few days so I am very happy with the way he played.

"He demonstrated why he is here, he demonstrated not only his value as a player. He is a very young player so I think he will improve a lot in the future, playing with Yaya (Toure), David Silva and (Sergio) Kun Aguero.

"I am very happy for him and very happy for our team to have bought him."

Press Association

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