Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists Mario Balotelli is working “very hard” to break his English Premier League duck after his side were held to a 0-0 draw with Hull City on Saturday.
The Italian striker drew praise from both managers as he missed an ideal opportunity to be the Reds’ match winner, and Hull boss Steve Bruce suggested Balotelli has become a “whipping boy”.
“Obviously a couple of chances fell to Mario around the six yard box,” said Rodgers.
“For the last one, it was a great run by Coutinho, Mario opened up his foot to get it in and it’s gone right across him. He had one or two in the game. He worked very hard today.”
“Maybe he thought he wasn’t going to play but you have to stay with it. He is working hard and at the moment doing his best.
“Unfortunately that wee bit of confidence is lacking without a goal. We had enough chances and he’s frustrated we did not win but the reaction from midweek and performance I’m happy enough with.”
“I have only been working with Mario a short period and I gauge it first and foremost on the training field and there is no danger of him not being mentally tough enough. He is out there every day.”
“He works, he recovers. Goalscorers will tell you they get their energy from the ball hitting the net. You saw his reaction today. He was working and pressing and was just a bit unlucky.”
“He will be disappointed but it was a big physical effort from the team, against a side that has done well away from home. We just couldn’t find that final touch.”
Bruce was delighted to collect a point at Anfield after earning a draw last weekend at the Emirates with Arsenal.
“When you come to Liverpool the one thing you have to do is make sure you play well so we are very pleased,” he said.
“I thought Mario Balotelli did okay the other night against Real Madrid and he was their most effective player today.”
“He is the whipping boy. There is a lot written about him – he is not everyone’s cup of tea – because he is a maverick but I saw him against Tottenham earlier in this season when he was terrific. He is just going through a sticky period.”