Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers vowed to stick with Mario Balotelli after another goalless but encouraging display against Hull.
Balotelli is still to score in the Barclays Premier League since moving to Anfield after the Reds were shut out by the Tigers in a 0-0 home draw.
But after some underwhelming performances, and controversy in midweek after exchanging shirts at half-time in the loss to Real Madrid, Balotelli produced a much-improved effort.
He had one of Liverpool’s best chances in the first half, forcing a fine save from Eldin Jakupovic, and was again thwarted by the Hull goalkeeper with almost the last kick of the game.
His work rate and body language were also positive and Rodgers is convinced the controversial Italian will come good.
Rodgers said: “I thought he worked very well, very hard. He maybe thought he wasn’t going to play today but you have got to stay with it. He is working hard and he is doing his best.
“Unfortunately it is that wee bit of confidence sometimes, when you don’t get the goal. He kept going, kept getting into the areas.
“Sometimes with players if it’s not going so well they have a day where they don’t train or don’t work, but he puts himself out to train every single day. He is out there wanting to be better, wanting to improve.
“Goalscorers will tell you they get their energy from the ball hitting the back of the net and it is just not happening for him in terms of that, but all I will ask is they do their best. You saw today’s reaction. It was unlucky he didn’t get the goal.”
Liverpool showed urgency only sporadically but still created a number of chances and finished the match strongly.
Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho both went close in the closing minutes before Balotelli was denied at point-blank range by Jakupovic.
Rodgers said: “It was a big chance. We had one or two of those but we couldn’t quite put the ball in the net.
“He will be disappointed he hasn’t scored but, for the team, it was a big effort on the back of playing against a good team in midweek.
“We were a bit slow in the first half but in the second half I thought we were outstanding in the energy and effort we put into the game. It was a game we should have had three points from.”
Balotelli’s lack of goals was lampooned in a publicity stunt staged by a bookmaker outside the ground, who offered fans the chance to swap shirts bearing the player’s name.
But Hull boss Steve Bruce was also impressed by the contribution of the former Manchester City forward and feels the criticism has been harsh.
Bruce said: “I thought he was their best player. There is a lot written about him and a lot of debate about him and he is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he is a bit of a character, a bit of a maverick. When you sign a maverick you have to treat him like one and get the best out of him somehow.
“He is going through one of those sticky periods but the kid is a talent.”
Bruce also praised Balotelli for having the decency to accept a request to swap shirts with one of his players, despite the furore of Wednesday night.
“It is a shame for him. He is the whipping boy,” Bruce said. “But even then he was good-spirited enough to swap shirts. So, one of them have got it, but he did it out of the road of the cameras this time.”
Bruce was pleased to have collected another good point after last week’s draw against Arsenal.
He said: “When you come to Liverpool, like the Emirates last week, you have to make sure you play well. If you play well and take something it is excellent for a club like ours, and where we have been, and what is expected. So we are very pleased with it.”
Hull have been hit hard by injuries, not least in goal with Allan McGregor and Steve Harper out, providing the opportunity for the Swiss Jakupovic to come in.
Bruce said: “I would expect him to make those saves but, to be fair to the kid, he has waited a long time. It is not easy being the third-choice goalkeeper.
“The corners were raining in from Steven Gerrard and he stood up to the task of it. Maybe 18 months ago he found that a struggle.
“He will remember that, he has kept a clean sheet at Anfield.”