Liverpool shine on Mario bow
Mario Balotelli made a winning debut as Liverpool produced a dazzling performance to defeat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 at White Hart Lane.
It took just eight minutes for Liverpool to break the deadlock in Sunday's Premier League clash as Raheem Sterling tucked a neat finish past Hugo Lloris following good work by Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson.
Balotelli had two or three chances to give Liverpool a more commanding lead, while Spurs also played their part in an absorbing first half and needed Simon Mignolet to save well from Nacer Chadli just before the break.
But Balotelli's display was overshadowed by an excellent Liverpool showing as Steven Gerrard added a second from the penalty spot on 49 minutes following a foul by Eric Dier on Joe Allen, and then Albert Moreno sealed victory with a stunning solo goal on the hour mark.
Despite Brendan Rodgers insisting in the build-up it would not become 'the Mario Balotelli show', the pre-match focus was on the Italian who had a wonderful chance to open his account after three minutes.
The maverick striker found space to meet a Sturridge cross at the back post, only for Lloris to save his close-range header before the striker turned the rebound wide.
It was poor from Balotelli but a missed opportunity soon forgotten as Liverpool's England trio combined for a stylish opener.
Sturridge played through Henderson, whose low, driven cross was turned in at the back post by Sterling - a team goal which will have no doubt pleased watching England manager Roy Hodgson.
Emmanuel Adebayor had a decent chance to level almost immediately when put through by Nabil Bentaleb, only for him to lift the ball onto the roof of the net.
It was a rare moment of respite as Liverpool toyed with the hosts, wasting several decent chances to pull further ahead.
Sturridge wriggled free to strike a low left-footed effort just wide, before Balotelli wasted another gilt-edged chance when failing to head on target despite being left unmarked from a Gerrard free-kick.
Adebayor was proving a nuisance as Spurs began to settle, although a wayward effort from Danny Rose was all they had to show for their improved performance.
They were still looking shaky on occasion at the back and Lloris was fortunate not to be punished for a rush of blood to the head.
Soon after saving a Sturridge pot shot, the French goalkeeper, like so many times before, burst off his line to make an interception, which he put straight at Balotelli - a chance the Italian snatched at, screwing wide of the open goal.
Balotelli was guilty of firing wildly over from a corner just before the break, which Spurs were close to going into level.
Adebayor showed good strength to flick the ball through to Chadli, although the attacker's goalbound drive was denied by Mignolet.
Spurs were fortunate not to be further behind at the break but Liverpool did double their advantage four minutes into the second half.
Dier was adjudged to have pulled back Allen in the box, with Gerrard striking home the resulting penalty - a record 43rd successive spot-kick for Liverpool.
It looked a soft decision by referee Phil Dowd and one which led Mauricio Pochettino to make alterations, although the introduction of Townsend immediately cost Spurs.
The dawdling winger was dispossessed by Moreno just inside the Liverpool half, with the left-back powering down the fla nk before letting fly across Lloris.
Balotelli was withdrawn after the Spaniard's fine solo effort, which would have been usurped as the game's best goal had the final touch matched the quality of Sterling's inspired, mazy run.
Lloris denied that tame effort and a low Sturridge strike as the tempo slowed and game petered out.
There was a worrying moment for Hodgson as Rose was replaced after picking up a knock towards the end of a match which Spurs underwhelmed.