Football: Liverpool abysmal in Champions League loss but Balotelli gets brunt of criticism for half-time shirt swop

Liverpool's Mario Balotelli (right) walks off the pitch at half-time with Real Madrid's Pepe, before swapping shirts in the tunnel, during their Champions League Group B soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England on Oct 22, 2014. -- PHOTO
Liverpool's Mario Balotelli (right) walks off the pitch at half-time with Real Madrid's Pepe, before swapping shirts in the tunnel, during their Champions League Group B soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England on Oct 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

It was a European night to forget, as far as Liverpool are concerned. But if the Merseysiders are hoping for their 0-3 defeat by Real Madrid to go away quickly, that is unlikely to happen.

While critics slammed the Anfield club's performance, which resulted in their second defeat in three Champions League matches, the most vocal of the criticism was reserved for Mario Balotelli. The Italian striker has scored just once in 10 matches since arriving from AC Milan for  £16 million and on Wednesday, was again off the mark and was substituted at half-time.

His misfiring ways were, however, not the main cause of the online furore. His decision to swop shirts with Madrid defender Pepe while the players were walking into the players' tunnel drew much flak from fans. Liverpool were already three goals down at the time. His manager Brendan Rodgers said after the game that the decision to swap Balotelli with Adam Lallana at the interval was tactical. But he was critical of the shirt swop.

"That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Rodgers told Sky Sports in a post-match interview. “But if that’s the case then I wouldn’t like it. It’s something that I don’t like to see, I’ve seen it happen in other leagues and other countries but it’s certainly something that doesn’t happen here and shouldn’t happen."

The Liverpool Echo newspaper has called on Balotelli to apologise to Liverpool fans, adding that it is not the first time that he has embarrassed his new club, having snubbed his manager's demands to applaud the away supporters after the Reds lost their previous Champions League group game in Basel.

Former Liverpool player Jamie Redknapp joined the likes of other Anfield favourtites such as Graeme Souness and Jamie Carragher in saying that he has been a bad investment for the club. He added that Liverpool should have seen the warning signs, given the Italian's track record of falling out with high-profile managers at his other clubs.

"I don't blame Mario Balotelli - I blame Brendan Rodgers for bringing him here," Redknapp said. "How he thought he could turn around a player that (Jose) Mourinho, (Roberto) Mancini, (Cesare) Prandelli have all washed their hands of...

"There's a reason when you go to the supermarket and things are half price."