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Europa League Round-Up: Balotelli Clinches Liverpool Win, Tottenham Held By Fiorentina

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LONDON – Mario Balotelli scored his fourth Liverpool goal to hand the Reds a first-leg advantage against Besiktas at Anfield, and end a run of five matches without a win in Europe for the Merseysiders.

The Italian swept the ball home from the penalty spot, after Jordon Ibe was impeded by Ramon Motta, to end what had been a frustrating night for Brendan Rodgers’ side.

Liverpool enjoyed the majority of possession, but struggled to create too many clear-cut opportunities throughout the first half. Alberto Moreno came close with a rasping long range attempt before captain Jordan Henderson came a whisker away with a delicate free-kick.

Adam Lallana was faced with a freat chance five minutes after the restart, but the 26-year-old was unable to convert after the Turkish defence made a meal of clearing Henderson’s cross.

Balotelli and Raheem Sterling improved Liverpool’s attack, but Rodgers’ team struggled to assert themselves on their opponents for sustained periods.

Daniel Sturridge, making his European debut for Liverpool, should have done better when presented with the ball on the edge of the area after Sterling’s burst, clipping the ball out of play in a dangerous position down the right.

But the home side were celebrating what could be a crucial goal when Balotelli sent the goalkeeper the wrong way with a composed spot-kick. The former Manchester City man converted after Ibe’s scamper into the box resulted in the 19-year-old going down under a clumsy challenge from Motta, to put Liverpool in the driving seat for Europa League progression.

Tottenham 1-1 Fiorentina

Tottenham were held to a stubborn draw by Fiorentina at White Hart Lane, and must score at the Stadio Artemio Franchi if they are to stay in the competition.

Spurs made an electric start against their Serie A opponents, with Roberto Soldado despatching a superb volley from Paulinho’s corner on six minutes.

The Brazilian midfielder nearly got on the score-sheet himself, but fluffed his lines after industrious work from Kyle Walker. On-loan Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah almost pulled Fiorentina level, but was denied by the brilliant Hugo Lloris.

Despite their ascendency, Spurs were pegged back when Matias Fernandez’s thunderous free-kick fell into the path of Jose Basanta, who bundled the ball into the vacant net after Lloris’ parry.

Nacer Chadli will remember the game for the wrong reasons when he struck the bar from a gilt-edged position. A measured Joaquin attempt and a number of Fernandez set-piece’s threatened to score a second, prompting Mauricio Pochettino to respond by introducing Harry Kane into the action.

But the 21-year-old was unable to inspire his side to a win, as the side’s played out a tame second half. – talkSPORT

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