Mario Balotelli struck his first Premier League goal for Liverpool, with a dramatic and potentially vital late winner against Tottenham in a thrilling contest on Tuesday at White Hart Lane. With the score tied entering the final eight minutes, Balotelli, on the pitch for less than 10 minutes, anticipated Adam Lallana’s low-driven ball across the face of goal to prod home from close range and end his long, much-scrutinized league drought since joining the Reds from Milan in the summer.
A 3-2 victory for Brendan Rodgers’ men takes them to within a point of Tottenham in the Premier League table, and crucially now just three points off fourth place and the critical threshold for a return to the Champions League next season. And some win it was, too, after a highly entertaining and competitive encounter, in which Tottenham more than played their part.
Liverpool three times took the lead, first 15 minutes in when Lazar Markovic capped a fine run with a low shot that Hugo Lloris was bitterly disappointed not to keep out after getting both hands to the ball. But Tottenham deservedly, quickly hit back thanks to a fifth goal in three games for Harry Kane. After Steven Gerrard slammed home a penalty early in the second half following a poor foul on Daniel Sturridge by Danny Rose, Tottenham responded again when Dembele turned home Kane’s, despite the striker having been offside from Christian Eriksen’s free-kick.
Following on from the euphoria of Saturday’s north London derby win over Arsenal, Mauricio Pochettino’s side were again acquitting themselves well and their intense pressing was disrupting Liverpool’s midfield flow. But ultimately it was Liverpool’s greater firepower off the bench that proved decisive. With a draw looking on the cards, one substitute, Lallana, set up another, Balotelli, to take advantage of some further poor defending in Tottenham’s left-back position.
For the time being -- with Southampton and Manchester United still to play tomorrow -- both Liverpool and Tottenham are now within a group of five teams chasing the final two Champions League places separated by just three points. If Liverpool do secure a second straight season in Europe’s premier competition, then this win and Balotelli’s contribution will almost certainly have been key.