Mario Balotelli's shirt swap angers Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers

By Phil McNultyChief football writer at Anfield
Rodgers bemoans 'sloppy' Liverpool

Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli faces a reprimand from manager Brendan Rodgers after swapping shirts with Real Madrid's Pepe at half-time in the 3-0 Champions League defeat at Anfield.

Balotelli made the exchange as his side trailed Real by three goals, and the striker was substituted at the break.

"It is not something I stand for," Rodgers said.

"If you want to do that, do it at the end of the game. It is something I will deal with on Thursday."

Balotelli's 45 minutes against Real
Mario Balotelli had two shots in the first half, but both were blocked
He completed the joint lowest amount of passes with 17 - the same as Lazar Markovic who was on the pitch for 23 minutes
Balotelli had 23 touches - only Markovic had fewer

Rodgers, who was infuriated when defender Mamadou Sakho did the same with Samuel Eto'o at Chelsea last season, added: "We had an incident last year with a player and that was something we dealt with internally.

"It's something that doesn't happen here and shouldn't happen here."

Mario Balotelli
Pepe and Mario Balotelli walked off together at half-time and swapped shirts

It completed another miserable night for Balotelli, who disappointed in the 3-2 win against QPR in the Premier League at the weekend.

Rodgers also made a thinly veiled criticism of the Italian after Liverpool were completely outclassed by the Champions League holders, who opened the scoring through Cristiano Ronaldo's 70th Champions League goal.

Balotelli was replaced by Adam Lallana at half-time and Rodgers said: "It was purely tactical - I felt we needed a bit more movement centrally to occupy their centre-halves a bit more and I thought Raheem Sterling would do that.

"Adam Lallana came on and was tireless in his work rate. That is the minimum here at Liverpool - you need to press, you need to work. Young Adam came on and did that very well."

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti was more laid back about the episode.

"I think it is normal in football to change the shirt at the end," he said.

"It is nothing new. Sometimes the players change their shirt at half-time with the opponent. I don't see a problem."

A rare occurrence?
Balotelli played 43 Serie A games for Milan and the earliest he was taken off was the 52nd minute. He was only substituted five times in 37 starts for the Italian side.

However, former England international and BBC Radio 5 live summariser Phil Neville said: "There are some things you don't do, when you are 3-0 down in the Champions League. You don't go swapping shirts in full view."

Balotelli was also replaced after 45 minutes while playing for Italy against Uruguay at the World Cup, after picking up a yellow card in the first half.

Italy lost 1-0 to Uruguay, confirming their exit from the tournament and Balotelli later responded to criticism of his performances in Brazil.

Meanwhile, Rodgers defended teenager Sterling, who was the subject of morning headlines after he was pictured at a nightclub the day after England's 1-0 win in Estonia - a match in which he featured only as a substitute after telling manager Roy Hodgson he was tired.

"It is unfortunate for him as a young kid of 19 that six days before a game and on a day off that he can't go out," said Rodgers. "It is obviously a story for some but I think many people will look at it and think there is not a story in it.

"I thought he was terrific against Real Madrid and he is very focused on his work as a young footballer."

Mario Balotelli was substituted at half time against Real Madrid for Liverpool
Mario Balotelli has scored just one goal for Liverpool this season