Liverpool youth gamble paying off says Roy Hodgson

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson believes his decision to play a less experienced side in the Europa League is starting to pay off.

An under-strength team drew 1-1 against Steaua Bucharest last night which was enough to ensure they progressed to the last 32 as Group K winners with one game to spare.

Milan Jovanovic's 19th-minute header was cancelled out after goalkeeper Jose Reina allowed Eder Bonfim's effort to squirm from his grasp.

Hodgson left eight first-team players at home - either injured or rested - but felt the likes of youngsters Jonjo Shelvey, Danny Wilson, Dani Pacheco and Martin Kelly showed they have the potential to play a bigger part in future.

"I think it gives confidence and I think we have seen the emergence of people like David Ngog and Martin Kelly and I think that has come through these Europa League matches because they have been given a chance," said Hodgson.

"I think you have to add the name of Dani Pacheco because he not had many chances but he did not let the team down last night, and neither did Nathan Eccleston when he came on.

"Danny Wilson has had one game in the first team and that was at left-back (in the Carling Cup defeat to Northampton). It was a tough game for him to come in at centre-back and I am really pleased.

"I was most interested in the performance and whether the players could stand up to the challenge and I think they did."

Prior to the game Hodgson had challenged his fringe players to take the chance to prove themselves, although he denied some of them were playing for their futures after failing to impress.

Jovanovic and Ryan Babel, starting in his preferred central striker's role, at least gave some cause for optimism.

"In particular I was delighted for Ryan Babel, a player who has not had many opportunities to show what he can do and he took his opportunity with both hands," said Hodgson.

"It is good for me to know the work we are doing day in, day out on the training field is having some effect and the players are getting more and more comfortable with what we are trying to do - even those who don't get a chance to play every week."

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