Hodgson hails Reds progress

Liverpool boss feels poor start is almost behind them

Hodgson: Pleased with Liverpool shape

Hodgson: Pleased with Liverpool shape

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Roy Hodgson feels Liverpool are heading back where they belong after a 3-0 win over Aston Villa.

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"I always knew that in Meireles we had a top-class footballer and I'm pleased to see that he's showing that week after week now."

Roy Hodgson

Quotes of the week

The Reds made a wretched start to the Premier League season, winning just one of their opening eight games.

But a fourth straight league win at Anfield on Monday night sent them up to eighth, their highest position so far.

"We shot ourselves in the foot early doors and we're still limping but the limp's getting better," Hodgson told Sky Sports HD1.

"We're playing better every game and I think with the way the team was structured today, the shape of the team and the concentration was good throughout.

Comfortable victory

"In the end it was a comfortable victory but comfortable victories have to be worked for as well."

Liverpool were without their talismanic trio as Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard are injured while Fernando Torres was unable to play as his wife had gone into labour but David Ngog and Ryan Babel impressed in their absence.

Ngog claimed a 14th minute opener and Babel struck just two minutes later and the strike pair were praised by Hodgson.

Central midfielders Raul Meireles and Lucas Leiva were perhaps even more impressive, though, as victory was secured in the 55th minute when Maxi Rodriguez finished off a counter-attack.

"I thought the two front players worked very hard defensively as well as offensively, which was important," Hodgson added.

"But I think the midfield, and in particular the two central midfield players, were crucial, both in their offensive and defensive play.

"The protection that the midfield gave our back four made life that little bit easier."

Meireles is now justifying the £11.5million that Hodgson spent to sign the Portugal international from Porto in August.

"I think sometimes we're quite harsh on players who come to new clubs, especially if they come from abroad," Hodgson explained.

High expectations

"We expect them to be geniuses straight away and write them up in such a way that if their performances are not top drawer from the start, we start questioning them.

"I think all players need a bit of time when they come to a new club, and if you're a foreign player coming from a foreign league you need that bit of extra time to find your feet and realise what your coach and your team-mates want from you.

"But I always knew that in Meireles we had a top-class footballer and I'm pleased to see that he's showing that week after week now."

It was an unhappy return to Anfield for Villa boss Gerard Houllier, who was back at Liverpool for the first time as a manager.

But it was more memorable for Reds goalkeeper Jose Reina, who claimed his 100th clean sheet in 198 league matches for Liverpool, breaking the previous record held by Reds great Ray Clemence, who took 217 games to reach the landmark.

"He's a very good goalkeeper and he's also a very good character," added Reds boss Hodgson.

"His personality and his character are very important. Goalkeepers need a certain presence to become top-class, and Pepe (Reina) certainly has that."