Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers explains why he gave out of form Mario Balotelli a starting opportunity

Mario Balotelli was given a start against West Brom after featuring in the second half of the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Aston Villa.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has been explaining why he gave Mario Balotelli an opportunity from the start in the 0-0 draw against West Bromwich Albion.

It was a rare start for the Italian who has only found the net on four occasions ever since his £16 million arrival from AC Milan. His last chance to feature from the kick-off came in the Europa League defeat to Besiktas, and Brendan Rodgers has preferred Raheem Sterling to lead the line whenever Daniel Sturridge has been absent through injury.

The Liverpool boss is quoted in the Liverpool Echo, saying: “It was difficult for him because West Brom played a really low block, you have 11 players behind the ball so when you’re that central striker playing against that, there’s not a lot of space.

“He wasn’t getting involved too much in the link-up and build-up play, but he played very well at Wembley, that’s the reason he got the opportunity, he played very well in the second half and it was an opportunity for him.”

  PositionTeamBig Chance CreatedTotal Scoring AttShot Off TargetTotal Att AssistAppearancesMins Played
Mario Balotelli FW Liverpool 0 5 1 1 1 75

Balotelli's flick led to probably the best opening Liverpool created when he set Jordon Ibe away only for the teenager to hit the crossbar with a difficult chance, and his ability to hold the ball up led to a goalmouth scramble as the Baggies somehow managed to survive unscathed.

The problem with Balotelli's performance was the reluctance to get goal side of the defender, and at times he didn't seem to be able to play off the shoulder making the centre of the field quite congested as the Reds struggled to find a way through.

Although at times the ex-AC Milan man seemed a handful, he was largely ineffective - hence being substituted late on.

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for LIVERPOOL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch