Mario Balotelli, 24, scored a penalty in the 85th minute to gift Liverpool a narrow win over a spirited Besiktas side at Anfield, despite a disagreement over who should take the spot kick.
The Reds were awarded the penalty after 19 year-old Jordon Ibe was fouled by Ramon Motta. The Italy international striker, Balotelli, argued on the night with Daniel Sturridge and skipper Jordan Henderson over who should step up to the spot, before he snatched the ball and converted. This is his second goal in Europe for Liverpool. He has had a bumpy time in Liverpool since his move from AC Milan last summer and this goal, together with his goals in consecutive home games, could turn a corner for him in his fortunes.
The last time the two sides met in a European fixture in November 2007, Liverpool thrashed Besiktas 8-0 at Anfield, and there were hopes pre-match of another high-scoring encounter. Eight years on, however, this was a very different Besiktas' team. They defended on Thursday night with such a discipline that they must have hoped to return to Istanbul with a draw..
Liverpool were not in the kind of form they would have liked to have been. Besiktas' striker Demba Ba, who faced Liverpool for the first time since scoring last year for Chelsea, went close for the visitors, when he was clean through on goal, but was thwarted by Belgian international goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet, 26.
Daniel Sturridge, 25, who made his long awaited European debut for the club, having missed the Champions League games in the autumn, had a shot saved from a tight angle by keeper Cenk Gonen. Liverpool teen star, Jordon Ibe, 19, then won the decisive penalty, when he escaped past Ramon Motta and was bundled over, with Balotelli stroking the penalty home past Gonen.
Liverpool will have to go to the Ataturk Stadium, where they won the European Cup a decade ago, and perform much better than they did here if they are to qualify for the next round. Their place in the last-16 of the Europa League has still to be earned and testing Besiktas away from home under Slaven Bilic, a former West Ham and Everton player, will be hard work. #Football.