Liverpool beat Beşiktaş thanks to Balotelli penalty

Liverpool FC 1-0 Beşiktaş JK
Mario Balotelli converted a late penalty at Anfield to hand the Reds a minimal advantage ahead of next week's return in Istanbul.

Liverpool's Mario Balotelli takes the plaudits after scoring a late penalty against Beşiktaş
Liverpool's Mario Balotelli takes the plaudits after scoring a late penalty against Beşiktaş ©AFP/Getty Images

• Mario Balotelli converts 85th-minute spot kick for Liverpool
• Liverpool record first win in six European outings
Reds unbeaten in six home matches against Turkish sides
Teenager Jordon Ibe makes debut in UEFA club competition for hosts
Second leg is next Thursday in Turkey, with the last-16 draw the following day

Mario Balotelli's late penalty gave Liverpool FC a narrow but potentially significant advantage to take to Istanbul for the second leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie against Beşiktaş JK.

Substitute Balotelli grabbed the ball ahead of Jordan Henderson and converted from the spot with five minutes left of the first leg after the excellent Jordon Ibe had driven into the Beşiktaş box and gone down under a challenge from defender Ramon Motta.

It was a much tighter contest than when the Black Eagles were last at Anfield, an 8-0 defeat in 2007, with Slaven Bilić's Turkish Super League leaders showing just why they had taken four points off Tottenham Hotspur FC in winning Group C.

Yet this is a much more confident Liverpool side than that which exited the UEFA Champions League in December and, in 19-year-old Ibe, they had a player full of running. The teenager's early break created a chance for Daniel Sturridge, but, though his quick feet took him clear of Ersan Gülüm, he failed to beat Cenk Gönen from a tight angle.

Beşiktaş defended tenaciously – by half-time Cenk's only other save had come from Alberto Moreno's brilliant 35-metre drive – and they also carried a goal threat. Veli Kavlak headed a José Sosa corner wide at the near post and then, after 35 minutes, Olcay Şahan's pass sent Demba Ba sprinting clear of Liverpool's centre-backs. The striker scored a goal for Chelsea FC at the Kop end last April that helped end Liverpool's title challenge, but Simon Mignolet stretched and turned away Ba's effort from the edge of the box.

For Liverpool, Adam Lallana fired over three minutes after the restart when a mix-up between Cenk and Pedro Franco left the goal gaping. Eventually, though, thanks to Balotelli, they got their noses in front.