Match ends, Liverpool 1, Besiktas 0.
- Liverpool's first win in six European games
- Balotelli scores his second goal in Europe for Reds
- Sturridge makes European debut for Liverpool
- Second leg on Thursday 26 February
Mario Balotelli scored a late penalty to give Liverpool a narrow Europa League lead over Besiktas despite a row over whether he should take the kick.
Liverpool were awarded the spot-kick in the first leg at Anfield after Jordon Ibe was fouled by Ramon Motta.
Balotelli and Jordan Henderson argued over who should step up to the spot before the Italy striker grabbed the ball and confidently converted.
Demba Ba went closest for Besiktas but saw his shot saved by Simon Mignolet.
However, the 24-year-old appears to have turned something of a corner having now scored in consecutive home games for the Reds, even if the manner of his penalty winner provoked a dispute with his team-mates.
|Balotelli's penalty record|
|Mario Balotelli has scored 27 out of 29 penalties in his professional career|
Liverpool thrashed Besiktas 8-0 at Anfield the last time the two sides met in a competitive European fixture in November 2007.
And with the Reds having lost just once - in extra time in the League Cup semi-final against Chelsea - since mid-December and rediscovering some of last season's swagger, hopes were high for another high-scoring game.
However, this Besiktas team - managed by former West Ham and Everton defender Slaven Bilic - proved substantially more stubborn opponents in the first leg of this last-32 tie than the side from 2007.
Indeed, the Turkish club were impressive in the group stage against Tottenham - winning 1-0 in Istanbul and drawing 1-1 at White Hart Lane - and only losing 1-0 over two legs to Arsenal in a Champions League qualifier.
Although Liverpool had the better of the chances they had to wait until the 85th minute to score, through Balotelli, who had come on to the pitch just after the hour mark.
Liverpool manager Rodgers said in the build-up to the tie that he wanted his players to show Europe the real Liverpool after their lacklustre displays in the Champions League which saw them knocked out after just one win in six group games.
Daniel Sturridge made his long-awaited European debut having missed the Champions League games with injury, and the England international's low shot from a tight angle was well saved by Cenk Gonen early on.
Ibe, who has reportedly been rewarded for his recent performances with a new five-year contract, caught the eye in the first half for the hosts with marauding runs down the right flank.
Besiktas striker Ba faced Liverpool for the first time since scoring for Chelsea last year in a win which damaged the Reds' title hopes.
Just after 30 minutes had elapsed the Turkish league's joint top scorer broke clear of the Liverpool defence and unleashed a low drive which brought a diving save out of Simon Mignolet at the Kop End.
Adam Lallana had a great chance shortly after the interval when Henderson's cross was spilled by Gonen, but the former Southampton midfielder side-footed over the crossbar from close range.
The impressive Ibe won the decisive penalty when he escaped past Motta but was bundled over and Balotelli, following an argument with Henderson and Sturridge, struck the spot-kick low past Gonen.
- 24AllenSubstituted forLovrenat 63'minutesBooked at 68mins
- 20LallanaSubstituted forSterlingat 77'minutes
- 10CoutinhoSubstituted forBalotelliat 63'minutes
- 2KurtulusBooked at 77mins
- 19FrancoBooked at 90mins
- 22GülümBooked at 44mins
- 31de Morais MottaBooked at 84mins
- 5SosaSubstituted forOzyakupat 60'minutes
- 10SahanSubstituted forFrei Koyunluat 72'minutes
- 21Frei Koyunlu
- Szymon Marciniak
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Liverpool 1, Besiktas 0.
Attempt blocked. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Pedro Franco (Besiktas) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Pedro Franco (Besiktas).
Attempt blocked. Oguzhan Ozyakup (Besiktas) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Kerim Frei with a through ball.
Attempt blocked. Gökhan Töre (Besiktas) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Atiba Hutchinson.
Attempt missed. Pedro Franco (Besiktas) left footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Oguzhan Ozyakup with a cross following a set piece situation.
Foul by Emre Can (Liverpool).
Ramon (Besiktas) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Jordan Henderson (Liverpool).
Gökhan Töre (Besiktas) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Goal! Liverpool 1, Besiktas 0. Mario Balotelli (Liverpool) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Ramon (Besiktas) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Penalty Liverpool. Jordon Ibe draws a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty conceded by Ramon (Besiktas) after a foul in the penalty area.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Veli Kavlak (Besiktas).
Foul by Mario Balotelli (Liverpool).