Liverpool unveiled their brand-new attack led by recent signing Mario Balotelli, and it took little time for the pieces to mesh together to perfection.
Raheem Sterling scored the first, Steven Gerrard added another and Balotelli shined for the 61 minutes he was on the pitch, as the Reds hung a convincing 3-0 victory on Tottenham at White Hart Lane to welcome the Italian striker in style.
Brendan Rodgers orchestrated a full-fledged attack on Tottenham's defensive third, firing 15 total shots—seven on goal—at Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris that he did not have the answer for.
Liverpool wasted no time getting on the board early, when the young Sterling slipped to the back post and waited for a great ball from Jordan Henderson. He easily slid it into the net in the eighth minute for the 1-0 lead.
NBC Sports' Joe Prince-Wright summed up the play:
Former Liverpool great Jamie Carragher liked what he saw:
Sturridge and Henderson's work for the first goal outstanding and what a finish from Sterling.— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) August 31, 2014
Sterling continued to show glimpses of chemistry with budding star Daniel Sturridge in the attack, leaving Gary Lineker awfully impressed with their play:
Sturridge and Sterling are stupendous!— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 31, 2014
But while most Liverpool supporters have grown accustomed to seeing Sterling and Sturridge hook up for aesthetically pleasing goals, everyone wanted to see the new signing in action. Balotelli did not disappoint.
The Italian nearly scored his first Liverpool goal just minutes into the contest, when his header was saved by Lloris and he sent a follow-up attempt whizzing past the post.
Despite the early miss and a couple of off-target attempts, the young striker looked energetic and poised on the ball, aggressively looking for opportunities without forcing them. Miguel Delaney of ESPN noticed how he performed:
Liverpool have been very good. Balotelli missed a chance and done nothing spectacular, but some of his link-up play has been quality.— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) August 31, 2014
Balotelli will need some time to get used to the squad, but early signs were encouraging for Rodgers and company as his talent was surely on display.
Rodgers smiling after a bad Balotelli miss sums up that idea perfectly, per Telegraph:
Tancredi Palmeri of beIN Sports added more:
That smile on Rodgers face in the background of Balotelli after missing the shot was saying 'The hell of bargain we might have get here'— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) August 31, 2014
Of course, with Balotelli inevitably comes some errant attempts and Sunday featured plenty of those. As WhoScored.com noted:
Mario Balotelli: Had 5 shots in the first half of #THFCvLFC; only 4 players have managed more in a PL game this season— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) August 31, 2014
As Balotelli missed the mark countless times early on, he left himself prone for some great pictures as Bleacher Report UK noted:
And even though the striker was off target for most of the match, he gave the Reds a serious jolt of energy early on when there was little other attacking presence in the opening minutes, per Squawka Football:
Mario Balotelli has already had 3 attempts for Liverpool, more than the whole Spurs team so far. #LFC— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 31, 2014
Balotelli was taken off in the 61st minute, as the club's official Twitter noted:
But by the time Balotelli was subbed off, Liverpool had already built a three-goal lead. Although he failed to score in his debut, he was all over the place and showed plenty of pace, impacting the match in more ways than one.
Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated thinks Rodgers has figured out how to deploy his talented new asset:
So much better from Liverpool than even the other game LFC won. Rodgers skilled at putting pieces together. Knew where Balotelli should go.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) August 31, 2014
The 24-year-old has now made his debut for two Premier League clubs and two top Serie A clubs in his short professional career. He has certainly made a name for himself in that span, but he's taking on a new challenge at Anfield.
The club captain offered his thought on the new addition, per Bleacher Report UK:
"If he plays like that every week, he could be the difference between whether we compete or not" —Gerrard on Balotelli— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) August 31, 2014
Gerrard added one of the Reds' three goals and was a big presence late in the win, but he struggled early on to help the attack. Squawka Football demonstrates his passing inefficiency in the first half:
Men in Blazers thinks Sterling's emergence might be coupled with a transfer move:
and the Raheem Sterling to Real Madrid rumors start in 3... 2... 1...— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) August 31, 2014
They may not have gotten a goal for their new prized commodity, but Liverpool aren't going to scoff at three points in an easy win over one of the league's better clubs. It was a strong overall performance, thwarting Tottenham's attack while proving unstoppable going forward on their own.
Balotelli certainly proved it will take some time for him to come to fruition, but Rodgers' smile told the story best. It will be sooner rather than later when the striker starts bursting for goal after goal, and it's surely looking like the Reds got a bargain.
And with Sterling, Sturridge and company playing out of their minds, Liverpool may be in for another title run after all.