LIVERPOOL manager Roy Hodgson believes his side’s progression to the last 32 of the Europa League is the perfect riposte to those who doubt the depth and quality of his squad.
The Reds are through to the knockout stage of the competition with a game to spare following last night’s draw against experienced European campaigners Steaua Bucharest.
Milan Jovanovic headed a Liverpool side, made up of fringe players and young hopefuls, into a 19th minute lead, but an uncharacteristic error from goalkeeper Pepe Reina allowed the hosts to snatch a point.
Hodgson was nonetheless encouraged by his team’s display. He said: “I am very happy. Happy most of all the team we had confidence in to take on this tough task of facing Steaua were able to produce the performance, and get the result we needed.
“Players like Danny Wilson, Dani Pacheco and Jonjo Shelvey, who have hardly played at all in the first team, asking them to come to Bucharest and get a result against a team of Steaua’s quality is fantastic.
“It’s a good achievement considering we have gone through this Europa League campaign giving many players a chance to play who don’t normally play in the Premier League.”
Liverpool appeared to be heading for their first European away win of the campaign before Reina, captain for the night, allowed Eder Bonfim’s header to squirm over the line.
“We are happy to have qualified for the next stage of the Europa League but I am not happy with the goal I conceded,” said Reina.
“At first I thought it was offside but it was my fault, my mistake and I should have saved it. I was distracted by another player who looked like he was in an offside postion but I can’t be making excuses and I?should have stopped it.”