Mario Balotelli

Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid (Ronaldo ’23, Benzema ’30, ’41)

Reigning champions Real Madrid kept up their 100% start to this season’s Champions League campaign thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and a brace from Karim Benzema.

Ballon d’Or holder Ronaldo set the Galacticos on their way 23 minutes in, capping off a wonderful one-two with James Rodriguez, letting the ball bounce before beating a despairing Simon Mignolet inside the box with an accomplished finish.

Benzema doubled the visitors’ lead on the half hour mark with a looping header from Toni Kroos’ cross, leaving Mignolet stranded in the Liverpool goal once again.

The French forward netted his second of the tie four minutes before the break when he bundled in a badly defended corner. Pepe scrambled the set piece into the path of the 27-year-old to end the contest before half time.

Phillipe Coutinho came closest for the hosts with a rasping drive in the first half that rattled the post but did not find the net to the relief of the under fire Goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Ronaldo, the ex Manchester United star who scored his first ever goal at the home of their arch rivals tonight, was keen to silence the boo boys during the 90 minutes but could not add to his tally, shooting wide on one occasion and was denied by Mignolet on a few occasions.

He was replaced later on in the second half by Sami Khedira with Carlo Ancelotti clearly having one eye on Saturday’s El Clasico which promises to be an exciting occasion on Saturday evening.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Lovren, Skrtel, Moreno, Gerrard, Allen, Henderson (Can ’67), Coutinho (Markovic ’67), Sterling, Balotelli (Lallana ’45)

Subs not used: Jones, Toure, Manquillo, Lambert

Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo (Nacho ’85), Kroos (Illaramendi ’82), Modric, Ronaldo (Khedira ’65), Isco, James, Benzema

Subs not used: Navas, Carvajal, Medran, Hernandez

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Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa

Aston Villa grinded out an unexpected 0-1 win over Liverpool thanks to an early goal by Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Agbonlahor, who this week signed a four-year contract extension at Villa Park, put his boyhood club 0-1 up after just nine minutes when he bundled in a corner thanks to some poor Liverpool defending.

Said defence was under pressure again soon after but this time Phillipe Senderos headed over from Ashley Westwood’s free-kick.

Liverpool throughout tried and failed to break down a resolute and organised Villa side.

Mario Balotelli, who many quoted as a “bargain” at £16 million was ineffective against Senderos and Nathan Baker on his home debut in a Liverpool shirt and was replaced by Rickie Lambert with 20 minutes to go.

The controversial Italian had just one chance of note, a deflected effort in first half injury time that went wide.

Balotelli also had headed chances at corners but did not gain sufficient contact on either of them.

Liverpool’s closest effort came nine minutes before the end when Phillipe Coutinho hit the post from the outside of the area. From the rebound Raheem Sterling’s shot was blocked by his own player Jordan Henderson which summed up their day.

Brendan Rodgers’ side again showed that while plan A of patient but potent passing play can be deadly as well as easy on the eye, the side lacks a different option when teams set up to defend and hit them through a counter attack or, like this case,  a set piece.

Aston Villa however were impressive in the way they set themselves up and continued their recent good form at Anfield, they have not lost there in their last four outings now.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Manquillo, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno, Henderson, Gerrard, Coutinho, Lallana (Sterling ’61), Markovic (Borini ’71), Balotelli (Lambert ’71)

Subs not used: Jones, Enrique, Lucas, Toure,

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Baker, Senderos, Cissokho, Westwood, Delph, Cleverley (Sanchez ’86), Richardson, Agbonlahor (Bent ’90), Weimann (N’Zogbia ’72)

Subs not used: Given, Okore, Bacuna, Grealish

Tottenham 0-3 Liverpool

A Raheem Sterling strike, a spot kick from Steven Gerrard and a magnificent individual goal by Alberto Moreno earned Liverpool a 0-3 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

Sterling tapped Liverpool in front after eight minutes and Gerrard’s penalty ensured that his team would be going back to Anfield with three points.

Alberto Moreno’s marauding run and finish ended any Tottenham hopes of a comeback.

Liverpool began the game in typically dynamic fashion, new signing Mario Balotelli had a header saved after just two minutes.

They did not have to wait long for their opener however as Sterling converted from Jordan Henderson’s squared ball just six minutes later.

The Reds began the second half much like they did the first, scoring three minutes after the interval with a Gerrard penalty. Joe Allen was bundled over in the box by Eric Dier who failed to win the ball but the contact was minimal.

Spot on: Gerrard's converts his penalty.

Spot on: Gerrard’s converts his penalty.

Moreno’s first goal in England sealed the win, a powerful unchallenged sprint down the left flank which culmiated in the Spaniard lashing the ball off the inside of the post and in. Lightly reminiscing the sort of goals Gareth Bale scored in the same stadium once upon a time.

Brendan Rodgers’ boys should have made it four after a jinking run but did too much and his final product was a tame shot straight at Hugo Lloris when it was arguably easier to score.

It could have been a totally different game though had firstly Emmanuel Adebayor flick over Simon Mignolet gone under the bar rather than over sixty seconds after Sterling’s opener.

Nacer Chadli also had a half volley superbly saved by Mignolet just before half time.

Tottenham’s game was summed up in second half stoppage time, being denied a penalty for a shirt tug on Adebayor.

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Dier, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose (Davies ’72), Bentaleb (Dembele ’59), Capoue, Chadli, Eriksen (Townsend ’59), Lamela, Adebayor

Subs not used: Friedel, Chiriches, Holtby, Kane

Liverpool: Mignolet, Manquillo, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno, Henderson, Gerrard, Allen (Can ’61), Sterling (Enrique ’86), Sturridge, Balotelli (Markovic ’61)

Subs not used: Jones, Toure, Lambert, Coutinho

Man of the match: Raheem Sterling

England 1-2 Italy: Roy’s boys lose opening match

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Italy recorded a somewhat fortunate win over an England side who dominated much of the play but ultimately came up short.

Cesare Prandelli’s side took the lead ten minutes before half time after some poor England positioning when defending a corner. White shirts crowded the box but Claudio Marchisio received the ball outside the area and plenty of time and acres of space to set himself and fire at goal. Joe Hart had no chance.

England were not behind for long however, Wayne Rooney playing in what seems to be his new position for the Three Lions, whipped in a ball on the left hand side that Daniel Sturridge tucked home from close range two minutes later.

The Azzuri regained the lead five minutes into the second half thanks to Mario Balotelli’s close range header from Antonio Candreva’s cross. Candreva darting past Leighton Baines and floating in a delivery that went over Gary Cahill and into the path of Balotelli who couldn’t really miss.

Raheem Sterling looked to have gave England the lead after just four minutes when his drive from distance rippled the net, the side netting though, disappointing many an England fan who thought they were in front.

Jordan Henderson wasn’t far away either, a swerving shot from him was palmed away well by Italy’s stand in goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.

Italy hit back with first Daniele De Rossi warming Hart’s gloves with a stinging shot that was fumbled and then Balotelli curled a shot over from far out.

A minute later and England came close again, Danny Welbeck on the right squaring the ball across goal but Andrea Barzagli slid in just before Sturridge and Italy re grouped for a corner.

Phil Jagielka saved England just before the break when Balotelli lobbed an out of position Hart but the Everton defender was there to clear it off the line. Just after that Candreva cut inside and rattled the post but England survived.

England also had a penalty claim when Welbeck was sandwiched between two Italy defenders as he attempted to reach a Sterling ball across goal.

Rooney was more of a shooting threat in the second half as he was moved into his favoured central role, first shooting narrowly wide from the edge of the area and soon after cutting inside a defender and firing wide again, should have really scored.

Ross Barkley was introduced for Welbeck with twenty five minutes left and made an immediate impact, bursting down the left, turning inside an Italian defender and having a shot palmed away by Sirigu.

Inside the last twenty minutes Glen Johnson decided to try his luck after receiving the ball from a short corner but his strike whistled wide.

England had a few last throws of the dice with free kicks from Steven Gerrard and Baines but there was no David Beckham esque moment vs Greece. Andrea Pirlo almost scored one for Italy though, smacking the bar from distance and Italy held on for the win.

World Cup Preview: Italy

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World Cup 2006 was bliss for Italy, 2010 was a disaster, Euro 2012 was better, what does 2014 have in store?

The Azzuri made changes across the board to their aging 2010 team, including bringing in a new manager in Cesare Prandelli who revitalised the squad bringing in young talent such as Mario Balotelli who shone in Poland and Ukraine, most notably in the 2-1 Semi Final win over Germany where he scored twice.

Italy reached the final of Euro 2012 and despite the 4-0 drubbing by Spain, the tournament was a huge success bearing in mind they entered the tournament on the back of fresh corruption allegations in their domestically.

Prandelli’s outfit were not convincing performers in Poland and Ukraine, drawing to Croatia in the group and only beating England on penalties but they only lost the one game – unfortunately the most crucial – but have regained their reputation of being tough to beat, something that took a hit in 2010.