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Clockwatch: How did Balotelli do on his Liverpool debut?


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Mario Balotelli went straight into the Liverpool starting line-up for the Premier League game against Tottenham - but how did he fare on an action-packed debut?

Here's the match report in full if you haven't checked it out:


We followed his movements closely at White Hart Lane...

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PRE-MATCH: The new man is named in Liverpool’s starting line-up and takes up position in a front two with Daniel Sturridge. Liverpool are using the diamond formation which served them so well in the second half of last season, with Raheem Sterling playing just behind Balotelli and Sturridge. That means the Italian is in the Luis Suarez position. No pressure then...

3’ – CLOSE TO DREAM START: Balotelli gets free at the back post to rise above the defence and connect with a deep cross from Sturridge, powering his header right at Hugo Lloris.

14’ – ANOTHER CHANCE: Gerrard delivers a wicked, curling free-kick which again is aimed at Balotelli at the back post. This time he gives Danny Rose a little nudge to make space for himself and gets the faintest of touches on the ball as he heads it wide.

19’ – REPOSITIONED: The striker drifts out wide to the left to try and find the ball but is dispossessed when two Spurs players swarm him, Christian Eriksen taking the ball away.

25’ – OUCH: Eric Dier slides into the back of the striker as he again moves into the left channel to race after the ball. It’s a big impact but no card for the Tottenham man and Balotelli is soon on his feet.

30’ – SKILLS: Balotelli once got in trouble for a superfluous backheel during a pre-season friendly for Manchester City but a neat flick here sets up Sturridge for a firm drive at goal.

31’ – HUGE CHANCE: He wins the battle tenaciously in midfield and pops a lovely pass through for Sterling. Lloris races recklessly off his line to challenge for the ball and it spins out to Balotelli, who has the goal at his mercy but fires horribly wide from range when he just had to punt the ball back over the keeper’s head.

44' - SKIES IT: Gerrard spots him free at the edge of the box from a corner and plays it to the Italian, who suffers from an unfortunate bobble and gets his boot under the ball from 15 yards as he lifts it high over the bar.

HT: An encouraging first 45 minutes for Liverpool's new signing as he shows the industry that many accuse him of lacking, but that debut goal evades him after a couple of glaring misses.

49' - DEFERRING TO AUTHORITY: Liverpool win a penalty when Joe Allen makes the most of contact from Dier but, despite his wonderful record from the spot, it is Gerrard who takes and scores the spot-kick for a club record 43 scored from 52 attempts.

61' - OFF: Balotelli gets the hook as he is replaced by Lazar Markovic after a low-key second half.

CONCLUSION: A promising debut for Balotelli. He is never going to be a like-for-like replacement for Suarez, who offered a lot more to Liverpool, but the striker suggested, despite some claims to the contrary, that he can be a very valuable player for his new side. He took up dangerous positions, played with fluidity across the front line, but crucially lacked sharpness in front of goal.

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