Benitez: Ngog can be key cog

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The Independent Football

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez claims French striker David Ngog could have an important role to play this season.

Ngog ensured the Reds made progress in the Carling Cup with the only goal of a difficult third-round tie at League One leaders Leeds last night.

The 20-year-old has made a limited impact since moving to Anfield from Paris St Germain prior to last season, but he also netted as a substitute in the win over Stoke last month.

With the likes of Fernando Torres, Andriy Voronin and Dirk Kuyt left out of the starting XI, Ngog was trusted as a lone striker at Elland Road and Benitez considers he is making good progress.

The Spaniard said: "He is a young player, but he has quality. That is something we knew. He showed character. He was trying to keep the ball and get into positions. He was really tired at the end but he did a fantastic job.

"He knows the Premier League is very difficult but here he showed he can do it.

"Cup competitions are always very difficult. You have to win, everyone is working so hard. He is still a young player, he has quality."

Benitez made nine changes for the tie and fielded a number of fringe players including Ryan Babel, Andrea Dossena and Philipp Degen.

Another player given a chance was homegrown midfielder Jay Spearing who, on his first start, was deployed in a role usually filled by Reds legend Steven Gerrard.

The 20-year-old admitted the occasion, which had the feel of a Premier League match as the 38,168 crowd generated an electric atmosphere, made a big impression on him.

"It was a very special night for me to make my first start for the club," Spearing said. "To play the full 90 minutes was fantastic and we had to work hard for the win. The atmosphere was unbelievable and it was a great cup tie to play in.

"It has been a long time coming, waiting for my first start, but I've had to keep grafting hard and wait for my chance.

"I felt I did all right and hopefully I've proved to the boss and the supporters that I can do it for the first team."

Liverpool have now won five games in succession across all competitions and return to action as Hull visit in the Premier League on Saturday.