LIVERPOOL manager Roy Hodgson was delighted with the way his side coped in the absence of Fernando Torres by dispatching Aston Villa 3-0 at Anfield.
The hosts raced into a two-goal lead through David Ngog and Ryan Babel in the first 16 minutes before Maxi Rodriguez added the third 10 minutes after the interval.
Torres was given leave to be with his wife Olalla, who gave birth to their second child last night, but the star striker was not missed.
“It was important to get a result on the back of last week’s performance (a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham),” he said.
“It was slightly more satisfying that so many more players stepped up to the plate and took more responsibility in the absence of our three most recognised stars in Torres, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher (the latter two being out injured).
“The most pleasing aspect was the team effort; the shape was good throughout and I think it was more a triumph of teamwork over individual brilliance.”
Hodgson was also pleased with the performance of Babel, who was given a chance in his favoured striker’s role and put in a good display.
“I have never written Ryan Babel off, his chances have been limited because we have Torres, Ngog and Gerrard so the competition is fierce,” added the 63-year-old.
“I have also accepted his claim that he prefers playing centrally rather than being forced to play in wide positions.
“We’ve done a lot of work in training with him in those positions, he did well against Steaua Bucharest so when Fernando was unable to play I had no hesitation in putting him in the team.”
Hodgson only found out he would be without the Spain international yesterday afternoon and it was not the news he was hoping for.
“I certainly wasn’t planning for it. I knew Fernando’s wife was very close to giving birth and I hope everything has gone well,” he said.
“I was hoping it wouldn’t be today, I was hoping it would be yesterday or the day before or a couple of days after but this is what happens. It’s called sod’s Law that is happens on the very day you need him but luckily we’ve survived comfortably without him.”
Hodgson also paid tribute to goalkeeper Jose Reina as he recorded his 100th clean sheet for the club.
“He’s a very good goalkeeper and he’s also a very good character,” he said.