Five things we learned about Liverpool in their win over Besiktas

Jordon Ibe

Liverpool take a slender advantage to Turkey courtesy of Mario Balotelli's penalty in a 1-0 win over Besiktas in the Europa League.

Liverpool needed a late Mario Balotelli penalty to edge a victory over Besiktas in the first leg of their last 32 Europa League tie.

There may have been an argument over who was taking the spot-kick but no complaints about the result in the end as the Reds kept the visitors out, which means they are pole position to make it into the last 16 of the competition when they travel to the Ataturk Olympic Stadium for the second leg.

While many will be talking about the supposed controversy over who was taking the spot-kick, it did make us learn something, as well as a few others. Here are our five things that we have learned about the Reds during their win over the Turkish league leaders.

1) Liverpool are taking the Europa League very, very seriously

You didn't need to watch the game to see that, but just have a look at the teamsheet. Liverpool made only one change from the starting line-up that made it to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at Crystal Palace, and that was enforced with Jordon Ibe coming in for the suspended Lazar Markovic. There may have been the temptation to give the likes of Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho more of a rest and start them from the bench, but Brendan Rodgers resisted that temptation in order to put his side in charge ahead of the return leg.

2) They need to decide their penalty takers

Steven Gerrard is the club's penalty taker, but is out injured. So do you give it to the man whose last penalty was taken in 2009 [and was missed], or a forward who is renowned for taking penalties? As soon as Balotelli entered the fray, it should be known that he is the man who should take the spot-kicks. You could question whether Gerrard was wise to comment on the situation after the game in the way he did for ITV. At the end of the day Liverpool's best penalty taker took the spot-kick, scored, and Liverpool won the game. 

3) Jordon Ibe could be the side's next great entertainer

Whatever you think of his performance on any given day, there is always an element of excitement when the teenager has the ball at his feet, and he seems like a confident man, rather than a boy, when it comes to trying to beat his opponent in a one-on-one. He got his just rewards by winning the penalty, but given he is only 19, Liverpool supporters have every reason to be excited about this young man's future. It shouldn't be forgotten he is playing in a more unfamiliar and unorthodox role during his time in the side.

4) Mario Balotelli's renaissance continues

He may have a long way to go before he pays back the £16 million fee the Reds paid AC Milan for his services. But in his last three appearances, he has made three contributions that has led to the side winning those three games. He provided necessary support to Daniel Sturridge at the top end of the field and gave Besiktas problems. If Liverpool finish in the top four and/or win a trophy this season, Balotelli's contribution in this period of games should not go unrecognised.

5) They still have a lot to learn in Europe

There were some parallels with how the Reds approached their games in the Champions League, which is part of the reason why they ended up being knocked out of the competition and have to play their football in the lesser tournament. Liverpool need to try and find a way to get the same kind of rhythm and temp to their play that has been so effective in recent weeks, and against Besiktas they were probably guilty of giving them just a bit too much respect. There was, however, recognition in their play that they were playing over 180 minutes and not 90, and the late goal in the home leg does help things somewhat.

Register for LIVERPOOL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch