Steven Gerrard hails Mario Balotelli's Liverpool debut

Steven Gerrard praised Liverpool debutant Mario Balotelli for his performance as the Reds breezed past Tottenham with a 3-0 win at White Hart Lane.

- Gerrard: Suarez 'engineered' move to Barcelona
- Delaney: Three points from Tottenham vs Liverpool
- Usher: The unknown awaits in Champions League

Balotelli, who arrived at Anfield from AC Milan, could have marked his first appearance for the Merseysiders with a goal but saw an early header saved by Hugo Lloris and fired the rebound wide.

But the Italy international made a sharp all-round contribution before being substituted with an hour played, and skipper Gerrard told Sky Sports: "I thought he was terrific. All eyes were on him today. Credit to him -- I thought he was terrific for an hour.

"If he plays like that for us every week and continues to improve, he could be the difference whether we compete [for the Premier League title] or not."

Gerrard said he could find no fault with Balotelli's attitude or temperament since his arrival at Anfield, explaining: "He's worked hard and taken on all the tactics, how we play, with and without the ball.

"He'll only improve with a manager like Brendan [Rodgers] and the rest of the lads, seeing what we all do. He'll have to follow suit, that's the only option."

And the skipper, who scored Liverpool's second goal from the penalty spot, said Balotelli would take responsibility for spot-kicks if he was not in a position to.

"I'm aware he's a terrific penalty taker, and I'm sure he'll get the opportunity to take some penalties for the club," he explained. "The manager's told me that if I'm not on the pitch he'll take them."

He praised the quality of Liverpool's performance, which saw them chalk up a convincing win at White Hart Lane for the second season in succession.

"I think we're more pleased with the clean sheet than our attacking play, which was superb again," he said. "We know we're a threat, we've got pace, we've got talented players.

"The challenge for this team is to defend better -- that's what we got criticised for last year. Clean sheets are what we want, so I'm sure the manager's going to be buzzing about that."

Rodgers also praised Liverpool's new striker, telling reporters: "Mario was excellent. You could see his team ethic -- he was pressing, working for us as much as he could. He was very good.

"Take away the circus that surrounds him -- the circus he probably invites himself sometimes -- and control the background noise and get him focused on his football, and he's a good fella.

"He's now at an age where he has to show maturity. Now I'm giving him responsibility. For the first time in his life, he marked at a corner. Seriously. Treat him like an adult and it'll bring the best out of him."

He also hailed Raheem Sterling, who scored the opening goal in another livewire display but missed the chance to add another, scuffing an effort after a breathtaking run into the Tottenham area.

"Raheem ran into the box like Ricky Villa and finished it like Ricky Gervais," the manager said. "But he was fantastic for us again.

"Him, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson are playing at a leading club and showing really good tactical awareness and energy. They're going to do well for [England coach] Roy Hodgson in the years to come."