Sunday review: Brendan Rodgers pleased by Mario Balotelli debut for Liverpool | Barclays Premier League

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Monday 01 September 2014

Sunday review: Rodgers delighted with Balotelli debut

Brendan Rodgers lauds new signing's display, while Arsene Wenger rues 'jaded' Arsenal draw

Matchweek 3 - Sunday photo gallery

Balotelli lauded

Brendan Rodgers was full of praise for new signing Mario Balotelli and goalscorer Raheem Sterling after both caught the eye in Liverpool's impressive 3-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur.

"Balotelli was excellent  he two boys up front and Raheem in behind were a constant threat"
Brendan Rogers

The Italy striker enjoyed a fine debut when almost going close with an early header in Sunday's Barclays Premier League encounter and linked up well with Daniel Sturridge and Sterling up front, before coming off after an hour. Sterling, Steven Gerrard from the penalty spot and full-back Alberto Moreno scored the goals, but Balotelli also impressed his manager.

"Balotelli was excellent," said Rodgers. "The two boys up front and Raheem in behind were a constant threat. He's a good guy, he's worked well this week and I think everyone could see the team effort as he was pressing as much as he could. He was very good."

Sterling was also singled out for his contribution as Rodgers celebrated his 100th match in charge with a superb all-round display.

"He's flexible and we've tried to develop him to not just be a wide player but to also be able to play on the inside – and he was excellent," added the Liverpool manager. "From the inside, he can turn and he can press. Then, when we went to 4-3-3 he's got that pace to go on the outside. It's important for me that they have that intelligence to play in different positions and he can."

It was especially satisfying for Rodgers to see his team bounce back from Monday's loss at Manchester City and beat opponents who had won their first two matches of the new campaign.

"I thought we were terrific - outstanding," he beamed. "It's a difficult place to come because they've started well and Mauricio [Pochettino] is an excellent coach who will do very well here, so to get to two wins out of three is great and I'm reasonably happy."

Pochettino disappointed

For his part Pochettino was left frustrated after being caught cold by Liverpool early on in each half.

"It's a very disappointing result and two key moments at the start of each half cost us," bemoaned the Spurs head coach. "After we went 1-0 down, we stayed in the game and created chances, but in football you need luck at key moments and [it] was difficult."

Having struggled against the top teams last term, including 4-0 and 5-0 losses to Liverpool, this result burst their early-season bubble following Barclays Premier League wins over West Ham United and Queens Park Rangers. However, Pochettino insists it is too early to tell if it will be the same story throughout this campaign.

"We need to improve and look forward," he said. "It's the beginning of the season and only three games in."

Arsenal 'jaded'

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was also left wondering what might have been after his Arsenal side were held to a 1-1 draw by Leicester City. Alexis Sanchez put his side ahead with his first Barclays Premier League goal but the lead lasted just 2 minutes before Leandro Ulloa rose to head in Jeffrey Schlupp’s inviting cross and although the Gunners enjoyed 69% possession, they could not dominate domination into further goals.

"We did not create enough clear-cut chances and they fought very hard," said Wenger. "We missed a few opportunities but we lacked some creativity and sharpness. We have had a tough two weeks with three away games; it is not an excuse but we are a bit jaded.

"We wanted so much to win it that we lost caution and we were more open to counter-attacks and we could have lost it."

Pearson optimistic

Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson believes there is more to come from his side despite their solid start to the season.

The newly promoted side were handed a tough fixture list upon their return to the Premier League. However, they have come through impressively so far, with Sunday's draw with the Gunners coming after a 2-2 draw with Everton and a 2-0 loss at Chelsea.

"It was another illustration of how difficult the Premier League can be," he said. "We have played better and been more assured in possession, but we still had flashes of the ability to create things, which is going to be pivotal this season. Against a very good possession side, we still felt we looked dangerous on the counter-attack and occasionally put together some decent moves.

"There is a lot of promise; it's a matter of how quickly we can learn. I do think we have more to come. We have some real ability that has not been maximised. We have come up against some pretty special sides so far and I think we have acquitted ourselves pretty well."

'Agbonlahor unplayable'

Paul Lambert hailed striker Gabriel Agbonlahor after he scored the opening goal in Aston Villa's 2-1 win over Hull City on Sunday.

The 27-year-old produced a smart turn and finish to get the hosts up and running at Villa Park before Andreas Weimann doubled the advantage prior to the break. Nikica Jelavic's header found its way in via an Aly Cissokho deflection 16 minutes from time, but Villa held on to continue their unbeaten run in the top flight this term.

Lambert highlighted Agbonlahor as a standout performer on Sunday and insisted his side's overall showing warranted the three points.

"In the first half we were outstanding, the game plan and the tactical aspect of the game was outstanding and against a good side – the three at the back system is a hard one to play against.

"I don't think if we'd scored another couple of goals, anyone could have begrudged us that. That would have made the second half a little bit more at ease.

"Gabby [Agbonlahor] today was, especially in the first half, unplayable. His running power and his speed were excellent but the movement in the midfield was terrific.

"It's been a terrific start for us and hopefully we can keep it going."

Bruce 'shocked'

Steve Bruce, by contrast, cut a forlorn figure as he was left "shocked" by what he described as  "arguably the worst performance" from his Hull side.

"For how good our second half was, our first was just as bad," said Bruce. "We gave ourselves such a mountain to climb with the first-half performance in particular - it was arguably the worst I've seen us perform.

"I can't remember us performing so badly. In the second half we made a game of it and on another day we could have nicked something, but I still can't get over how bad we were in the first half.

"We gifted them goals, we made mistake after mistake and we didn't get above a jog so how do you expect to win a Premier League game?

"We had so many people who performed so badly, it was a shock to me but maybe we're getting carried away with all the nonsense that's being written about us and all the rest of it. It's been a wake-up call."

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