Ngog stars in Torres absence as Hodgson praises Reina

LIVERPOOL 3 vs ASTON VILLA 0

LIVERPOOL striker David Ngog stepped out Fernando Torres’ shadow at Anfield last night, playing a starring role in a win that lifted Liverpool up into eighth in the Premier League.

With Torres, whose wife had gone into labor before the match, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher all missing, Villa boss Gerard Houllier would have been confident of leaving Merseyside with at least a point on his return to the club.

But early first-half goals from Ngog and Ryan Babel killed off any hopes of a first away win since September, while a classy Maxi Rodriguez effort 10 minutes after the break added the gloss to the scoreline.

And Ngog was pleased to have shone in the absence of crowd favourite Torres.

He said: “I have to take my responsibility when the coach gives me my chance and I did it today.

“I had not scored for a while so it’s good for the team.”

The 21-year-old took only 14 minutes to justify his selection, heading home from close range after Martin Skrtel had directed a Raul Mereiles corner into his path.

Babel extended the lead two minutes later, albeit from an offside position, with a fine shot on the turn after a lofted pass from Lucas, and Maxi thumped home the third after more good work from Ngog.

Villa rarely threatened Pepe Reina, who made one smart stop from Gabriel Agbonlahor, on his way to keeping his 100th clean sheet for the club.

His boss Roy Hodgson (left) said: “I can only congratulate Pepe at being the fastest Liverpool goalkeeper to get 100 clean sheets because he’s done it in the face of some stiff competition.

“He is a great goalkeeper and a great character to have in the dressing room.”