Champions League: Rodgers adamant he will not accept Balotelli’s antics

Ross McLean
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Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring and netted his first ever Anfield goal

LIVERPOOL boss Brendan Rodgers insists he will discipline Mario Balotelli after the Italian striker swapped shirts with opponent Pepe at the end of a half in which Real Madrid dominated and outclassed their rivals at Anfield last night.

The Reds had won all three previous meetings with Real, a trend which was mercilessly reversed as the Spanish giants blew away Liverpool in 18 first-half minutes thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s first ever Anfield goal and a Karim Benzema double.

The ineffective Balotelli, who has only found the net once since his £16m summer move from AC Milan, was hauled off at the break and replaced by Adam Lallana and Rodgers is adamant he will not stand for the former Manchester City forward’s histrionics.

“It [the swapping of shirts at half time] is something I don’t like to see, I’ve seen it happen in other leagues in other countries but it is certainly something that doesn’t happen here and shouldn’t happen,” said Rodgers.

“We had an incident last year with a player which I dealt with and if that’s the case I’ll deal with this as well. His withdrawal was tactical. I felt we needed a bit more intensity and workrate through the middle.”

Real broke the deadlock midway through the opening half, Ronaldo hooking a first-time effort past Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet after an incisive one-two with Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez.

Liverpool conceded time and space to the European champions and were suitably punished on the half hour mark, Toni Kroos’ floated cross to the far post was met by Benzema, with the France striker looping a header over the stranded Mignolet.

Real were at their mesmerising best and notched their third before the break although it owed much Liverpool’s shambolic set-piece defending, Pepe showing the greater determination in the ensuing scramble from a corner to lay on a tap-in for Benzema.

Liverpool finally secured a foothold the game and came close to reducing their arrears before the break, Joe Allen’s shot from Balotelli’s cut-back flew inches wide before Philippe Coutinho smashed a 25-yard shot against the post.

This was the first time Liverpool had conceded three goals in the first period of a Champions League game since the 2005 final against Milan but there was no repeat of the Istanbul miracle in the second period with Real continuing to create the better chances.

Mignolet repelled a Ronaldo drive moments before the Belgian stopper denied the Portuguese again, while a late Rodriguez shot drifted wide.