Hodgson impressed by Cole performance

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The Independent Football

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson was pleased to see Joe Cole showed no signs of rustiness as a result of his domestic suspension as he scored and played an important role in the 4-1 Europa League victory over Steaua Bucharest.

The England international has been banned from the Barclays Premier League since his sending off in the game against Arsenal on the opening weekend of the season.

Since then he has been restricted to games in the Europa League - although even then his last outing was on August 26 in Trabzon - against opposition not up to the calibre of Manchester United, the team he will line up against at Old Trafford on Sunday.

However, he warmed up for that game by scoring Liverpool's fastest goal in Europe - after just 25 seconds - and his first for the club since his summer free transfer from Chelsea.

"It was nice for Joe Cole to get his first goal for the club, I thought he was lively throughout," said Hodgson.

"He showed some good touches and movement and as the game opened up the match became even easier for him."

Cole was delighted to be able to play a part in getting Liverpool's Group K campaign off to a winning start.

"It's massive, you've got to win your home games. It was a tough game and a good result," he said.

"I'm happy to get the first goal for the team. Teams come here, they put a lot of work in stopping us playing in the first half."

David Ngog took his tally to five in as many Europa League matches, and six for the season, with two goals while substitute Lucas Leiva was also on the scoresheet.

As Hodgson made eight changes from the side which drew 0-0 at Birmingham on Sunday it is likely few will survive for the trip to Old Trafford.

But he felt his decision was vindicated as he was able to leave the likes of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Milan Jovanovic and Christian Poulsen out of the squad entirely.

"I had no doubt that, given the fact we have so many players who play international football, this was the moment to give them a rest and allow them to prepare properly for Sunday's game," added the Liverpool manager.

"The ones who came in did a good job and got a good result and in my opinion the decision would have been just as valid even if we had not got a good result."

Steaua coach Ilie Dumitrescu felt his side did not deserve their 4-1 defeat but had no arguments with Hodgson's team selection.

"We gave a present to Liverpool in the first minute," said the former Tottenham and West Ham midfielder.

"But I was very sad for the result because this is not the real picture of what happened on the field.

"I knew it was difficult to get a result here because Liverpool create big pressure.

"They had Maxi Rodriguez, David Ngog, Ryan Babel, Joe Cole - they are quality players and it is a very strong squad."