HEAVILY INVOLVED: Mario Balotelli (in red) puts Everton under pressure. PHOTO: REUTERS

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers praised Mario Balotelli's attitude during his first Merseyside Derby.

The Italian, who had a Liver bird sculpted into his hair for the occasion, has yet to score a Premier League goal for the Reds and could not take advantage of a number of decent opportunities.

Balotelli should have made it 2-0 moments after Steven Gerrard opened the scoring, but he hit the bar from close range and Everton went on to secure a 1-1 draw through Phil Jagielka's stunning late strike.

Balotelli has a reputation as a hot-head and was the target of a number of robust challenges, but he did not react and was heavily involved in the game.

Rodgers said: "He needs to focus on the game and I made that point beforehand. This is a game where emotions are high and it can be difficult.

"But you're going to be in with a greater chance to win as long as you've got 11 players on the field.

"And, overall in his time here, he's responded very, very well. His work-rate was excellent. His pressure, his physique at the top end of the field for us were very good and he looked like he could get a goal.

"I was disappointed he didn't score but, as long as he's working well and working hard, he will get goals."


There were a number of impressive Liverpool performers, with Alberto Moreno, Gerrard, Jordan Henderon and Raheem Sterling all standing out along with boyhood Everton fan Adam Lallana.

The midfielder was also making his Merseyside Derby debut and would have opened the scoring early on, but for a fine save from Tim Howard.

Lallana was a constant thorn in Everton's side, and Rodgers said: "I thought he was outstanding.

"To come into his first derby game and play with that quality and that intensity. And he played the whole game during the week against Middlesbrough, penalties and all, so to deliver that performance was great because it shows he's getting fitter and fitter with each game."

Rodgers may not have nice words for defender Mamadou Sakho though, after the France defender had to apologise to supporters for leaving Anfield before the Merseyside Derby.

A fan photographed the 24-year-old, who was not included in the match-day squad, leaving Liverpool's home ground before kick-off.

The former Paris Saint-Germain favourite Sakho used his Facebook page to make it clear he had not meant to cause any offence.

"I really want to apologise to the club, the supporters and every person who felt offended when I left the stadium this afternoon," he said on his Facebook page.

"I'm aware that it was a bad choice from my part to go isolating (by myself) to watch the game!" 
- Wire Services.