Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel insists the identity of their penalty taker against Besiktas mattered less than the fact it was scored to secure a Europa League victory.
The Reds secured a slender 1-0 advantage to take to Turkey next week after substitute Mario Balotelli scored from the spot in the 85th minute.
It was not without controversy, however, as Jordan Henderson, leading the side in the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard, was designated pre-match to be on penalty duty only for Balotelli to take the ball off him.
Gerrard, watching from the television studio at Anfield, criticised the Italy international for being “mischievous” and “disrespectful” but Skrtel said the players were focused on winning and were not concerned by the fuss which followed the incident.
“The main thing is we scored,” said the Slovakia international. “It doesn’t matter who scored the penalty, we scored it and won the game.
“It was key that we won and it’s a good thing that we didn’t concede.
“We knew before that they were a good team. They are leading the league in Turkey.”
Balotelli, a £16million summer signing from AC Milan, played down the controversy, writing on Instagram: “Thank you Hendo for let me take the penalty. Stop drama now. We won that’s what it counts. We are a team and especially we are Liverpool. Come on guys.”
Manager Brendan Rodgers refused to be drawn into the row post-match, but is sure to face a series of questions about it and Balotelli later on Friday when he holds a press conference to preview Sunday’s trip to top-four rivals Southampton.
If Liverpool are to secure Champions League status again this season then victory at St Mary’s is a must as the fourth-placed Saints sit four points above them.
However, they go there with confidence and currently the longest unbeaten run in the Premier League with six wins and three draws. They have conceded just two goals in the last five league games – both to Tottenham in last week’s 3-2 win – and have kept five clean sheets away from home this season, one more than in the whole of 2013-14.
Part of that is down to the rejuvenation of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, dropped before Christmas after a poor run but who has since kept seven clean sheets in 15 matches in all competitions.
“You want to keep going if you have the momentum and confidence,” said the Belgium goalkeeper.
“It’s going to be a tough game. They are a very tough side, very organised and don’t concede many goals.
“We’ll try to make sure that away at Southampton we do our jobs again and get a good result.”