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averick striker Mario

Balotelli managed to

upset his Liverpool team-

mates despite scoring a late

penalty in a 1-0 win over

Besiktas in the last 32 of the

Europa League, one of several

first-leg victories for expected

title contenders on Thursday.

Liverpool’s stand-in captain, Jordan

Henderson, was preparing to take the

85th-minute spot kick at Anfield when

Balotelli – a penalty specialist – took

the ball off him. Henderson momentarily

appeared unhappy, as did Liverpool

striker Daniel Sturridge, but they were

soon congratulating Balotelli after he

converted for the winning goal.

“Jordan should have taken that

penalty. Rules are rules. Mario’s been

a bit mischievous,” said injured Liverpool

captain Steven Gerrard, speaking in

his role as a pundit for British broad-

caster ITV.

“Jordan is the captain, and Mario

showed Jordan a bit of disrespect


The commotion over the penalty took

the gloss away from another match-

winning contribution from Balotelli,

who is finally showing some form after

a slow start to his Liverpool career. Last

week, he scored a late winner against

Tottenham in the Premier League.

Balotelli is never far from controversy,

even when he is scoring winning goals.

Again, he impressed when coming

on as a substitute, as he did against

Tottenham last week and in an FA Cup

win at Crystal Palace on Saturday

when his free kick led to the winning


It was no surprise to see him seek

out the ball after young winger Jordon

Ibe was fouled for the penalty that

ended Besiktas’ stubborn resistance.

At first, Henderson appeared to be

against giving Balotelli the ball, but

relented, even after Sturridge came to

confront Balotelli.

“Credit to Mario, he’s scored, but it’s

not nice to see when footballers are

arguing,” an unhappy-looking Gerrard


“I think Jordan has handled the situ-

ation very well.”

Balotelli took to Twitter soon after the

match, saying: “Thank you hendo for let-

ting me take the penalty. Stop the

drama now. We won that’s what


Liverpool’s Mario Balotelli takes the ball down-

field during the Europa League Round of 32

soccer match between Liverpool and Besiktas at

Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, on


Balotelli causes fuss

with Liverpool winner

Messi had ‘problems

on and off the pitch’

last season



ionel Messi has said both he and

his Barcelona teammates have

learnt from mistakes that left them

without a major title for the first time in

six seasons last year.

Messi admitted on Thursday that he

had “many problems on and off the

pitch” last season. He did not elaborate.

“Last year wasn’t a good year for

me,” Messi said.

“I want to reverse that situation. I

want to keep in the same shape I am

today so I can keep being useful to the

team and helping them as much as I

am able.”

Messi fought off injuries throughout

2013 and has spent the past year

being investigated for allegedly failing

to pay all his taxes.

He also came one victory short of

winning the World Cup with Argentina

losing in last summer’s final to


This season Messi has recovered the

same outstanding form that gave him

four straight World Player of the Year

awards. He has scored 37 goals in 33

games this campaign, including 14 to

fuel an 11-game winning streak since

Barcelona lost at Real Sociedad in

early January.

The forward said that the entire team

is working to redeem itself after a dis-

appointing 2013-14 season.

“We are Barcelona, and hence, we

are obliged to fight for all titles,” Messi


“Sometimes you can achieve it and

sometimes you can’t. Last season, we

didn’t win any title. We don’t want to

repeat the same situation this season.”

Barcelona is within one point of

Spanish league leader Real Madrid,

and visit Manchester City in the first leg

of their Champions League round of 16

tie next week.

Lionel Messi



ome mayor Ignazio Marino

called on Feyenoord or the

Netherlands to pay for damages

after fans of the Dutch soccer club

rampaged through the famous Piazza

di Spagna.

“Whoever breaks it, should fix it,”

Marino told RAI state TV yesterday.

“Someone has to accept responsi-

bility – either the football club or the


EU Commission First Vice-President

Frans Timmermans said authorities

should impose hard-hitting penalties

on the hooligans.

“We need a tough approach to

make justice prevail and also because

sports should not be damaged by

the violence of hooligans,” said

Timmermans, a Dutchman who con-

siders Rome his second home.

Timmermans said the behaviour of

the rampaging fans was “a sign of

barbarity and brutishness”.

The square and the iconic Spanish

Steps were left covered with beer bot-

tles and other litter, while the recently

restored Barcaccia fountain was

damaged in the clashes before

Thursday’s Europa League match at

Roma, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

Several police officers were injured.

The ANSA news agency reported that

six Feyenoord fans were arrested.

On Wednesday, 23 Feyenoord fans

were arrested after causing trouble in

another downtown area.

“It was urban warfare,” Marino


Rome mayor orders Dutch to pay for damage by Feyenoord fans

In this picture taken Thursday, bottles and beer cans float in the

water as Feyenoord’s fans gather near the fountain called

Barcaccia, made by Pietro Bernini and his son, Gian Lorenzo, in

1627 at the Spanish steps in downtown Rome.