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English Premiership

Balotelli winning strike to revive career

BALOTELLI-SPUDSLIVERPOOL, February 11- Liverpool assistant manager Colin Pascoe said Mario Balotelli’s long-awaited first Premier League goal for the Reds could kickstart the striker’s spluttering Anfield career.

Balotelli came off the bench to net a dramatic winner seven minutes from time in Tuesday’s 3-2 victory as Brendan Rodgers’ side boosted their hopes of a top-four finish.

It was the Italy international’s first goal for Liverpool in 13 league games, and his first in the English top flight since he scored for Manchester City against Wigan in 2012.

Pascoe hopes Balotelli’s struggles will now become a thing of the past and that the enigmatic 24-year-old, who had previously scored only twice in all competitions this season, can take confidence from the goal.

“I hope it can be a springboard, he is training hard,” Pascoe said. “It’s testament to him that’s he kept going and got his reward. It was great movement from Mario in the six-yard box and a good finish.”

The Reds had twice led through Lazar Markovic and a Steven Gerrard penalty, only to be pegged back by goals from Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Mousa Dembele.

However, Balotelli came off the bench to strike the decisive blow and secure the points against one of Liverpool’s rivals for a Champions League spot.

Liverpool now lie seventh in the table, one place behind Spurs and only three points off the all-important top four.

“The last couple of weeks Mario’s been ill,” Pascoe added. “And he has had some knocks on his foot and he couldn’t get his boot on. So it’s great that he scored the winner

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“To get a winner at Anfield, he is immensely happy.”

– Gerrard hamstring –

Pascoe also revealed that Liverpool captain Gerrard was withdrawn in the second half as a preventative measure because of a slight hamstring problem.

“Steven felt his hamstring and felt he had to come off,” Pascoe said. “He could feel it a little. But it was an important win, it was a great win and we deserved it.”

Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino urged his players not to let the defeat affect their performances as they try to secure a place in the Champions League.

“The players are very disappointed, sad and tired but we have to accept football is like this,” he said. “I am proud of the effort and we have to look forward.

“We are disappointed with the result because I think one point would have been fair for both teams. It was a great game, we played well but this is football.”

However, Pochettino was disappointed with some of the defensive lapses in the first half.

“In the first half we gave Liverpool some chances and made some mistakes,” he said.

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“We give many balls away and easy balls. We give Liverpool the ball and they play on the counter-attack. But we deserved more from this game.”

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