Mario Balotelli stroked home an 85th-minute penalty as Liverpool beat Besiktas 1-0 at Anfield on Thursday to earn a first-leg advantage in their round-of-32 Europa League clash.
The Italian took the ball off Jordan Henderson after Jordon Ibe won the spot-kick and casually slotted home from 12 yards as the Reds earned first blood in the tie.
Demba Ba – then at Chelsea – derailed Liverpool’s Premier League title bid last season by capitalising on a Steven Gerrard error en route to beating Simon Mignolet in a one-on-one.
However, the Senegalese hitman fluffed his lines this time after running through with the Belgian as Mignolet palmed his effort to safety.
The Merseysiders finished the half on top, with Sturridge and Henderson both going close with free kicks, but Besiktas held on.
Liverpool could, and perhaps should, have opened the scoring early in the second half but Adam Lallana, with the goal at his mercy, volleyed well over the bar.
Slaven Bilic’s side looked the better of both sides, with Martin Skrtel forced to block Ba’s goal-bound curler from outside the box but the visitors struggled to create clear-cut chances.
The turning point came five minutes from the end when the impressive Ibe was fouled by Motta Ramon, and Balotelli, after wrestling the ball from Henderson, made no mistake from the spot.