It was a moment that only the sharp eye caught, but it could have saved Liverpool’s skin.
With the Reds down 2-1 to Manchester United at Anfield and pressing hard for an equalizer down a man, Mario Balotelli – already on a yellow card – was pummeled into the advertising boards by United defender Chris Smalling.
He had every right to be angry, but it wasn’t the time or the place to react. Unfortunately for Liverpool, Smalling knew exactly who he was dealing with and egged him on, pointing and yelling. When Balotelli picked himself up, he had that gleam in his eye – the one you see before he does something only Balotelli would do. Something bad. Something that would get him sent off.
Fortunately, Liverpool fans came to the rescue. In particular, Reds fan Shaun Leatherbarrow. You already can tell Leatherbarrow is a cut above the rest, because he is seen actually wearing sunglasses when it’s sunny out, something many Premier League fans can’t seem to figure out. The quick-thinking Liverpool season ticket holder held Balotelli by the shoulder for a split second, just long enough to calm the striker down and give him time to rethink his actions. Balotelli was eternally grateful, and posted the following on his Facebook page:
“I could tell from Mario’s body language that he was ready to react, and I knew he’d already had a yellow card,” Leatherbarrow told media after the game. “I was saying ‘leave it, leave it” and he was saying ‘ok, ok.'”
Liverpool wasn’t able to snag an equalizer, but it was a pivotal moment in the match. Had Balotelli been sent off for a rash reaction, who knows how bad things could have gotten with Liverpool down to nine men, and we could have been talking about a completely different scoreline. Good to see Mario appreciates the moment.