Sterling steals Balotelli's thunder

Raheem Sterling, centre, was at the heart of everything Liverpool did well

Raheem Sterling, centre, was at the heart of everything Liverpool did well

First published in National Sport © by

Liverpool debutant Mario Balotelli generated all the pre-match hype, but it was Raheem Sterling who provided the magic in Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Tottenham.

Sterling ignited the 3-0 rout at White Hart Lane with an eighth-minute opener and tormented Spurs with a display that will have delighted England coach Roy Hodgson ahead of the forthcoming fixtures against Norway and Switzerland.

The 19-year-old's finest moment saw him weave a path through the home defence only to fire a tame shot at Hugo Lloris, prompting Brendan Rodgers to joke: "Raheem ran into the box like Ricky Villa and finished it like Ricky Gervais".

Otherwise the Liverpool boss was glowing in his praise for Sterling and with Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge also excelling, he predicted England will also benefit from the progress made by the trio.

"Raheem needs to be better on his left foot. It was a wonderful moment of skill and he was fantastic for us again," Rodgers said.

"His tactical awareness is improving, and for a kid of 19.....he's been great.

"I don't see him as a (number) 10, I think he's flexible. You've seen his flexibility and it was perfect against Spurs.

"It's important he has the intelligence to play these different positions and he's developing that well.

"Him, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson are playing at a leading club and showing really good tactical awareness and energy.

"They're going to do well for Roy Hodgson in the years to come."

Balotelli, making his first appearance since completing a £16milllion move from AC Milan last week, could not be faulted for his attitude in an encouraging afternoon's work, but he missed three super chances.

"Mario was excellent. You could see his team ethic - he was pressing, working for us as much as he could. He was very good," Rodgers said.

"Take away the circus that surrounds him - the circus he probably invites himself sometimes - and control the background noise and get him focused on his football, and he's a good fella.

"He'll make mistakes and he was disappointed not to score, but he'll be a handful for defenders.

"He's now at an age where he has to show maturity. Now I'm giving him responsibility.

"For the first time in his life, he marked at a corner. Seriously.

"An international player who has won three titles in Italy and the Champions League and we were doing corners in training. I said 'you're picking him up at a corner' and he said 'I don't mark at corners'. I replied: 'Well, now you do'.

"He had a great header against Tottenham from a corner. Treat him like an adult and it'll bring the best out of him."

Rodgers described the victory as an "outstanding performance" following Monday's 3-1 drubbing by Manchester City and hailed Alberto Moreno's goal as "a great finish".

It was Tottenham's first defeat of the season under new manager Mauricio Pochettino and the Argentinean felt events conspired against them.

"We are very disappointed with the result because we had key moments in the game," Pochettino said.

"In the beginning after some mistakes we conceded the first goal, but we competed very well in that first half. We created a chance, a one against one with the keeper.

"Then in the second half we conceded a very soft penalty at a key moment in the game.

"And at 2-0 down we tried, we tried but were unlucky. I'm disappointed with the result."

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