Roy Hodgson hailed the performance of David Ngog after the Frenchman’s double got the new Liverpool manager’s reign off to a winning start last night.
Ngog, playing alone up front, struck in each half as an under-strength Liverpool emerged from a potentially tricky Europa League test against FK Rabotnicki in Macedonia with a 2-0 win.
Ngog’s future has been uncertain since Hodgson took charge a month ago with reports linking the 21-year-old with a move to West Brom.
The player, however, has expressed a desire to remain at Anfield and Hodgson said: “I can’t stop players being linked with other clubs. I certainly have never discussed him leaving.
“I think Ngog has done well in the pre-season matches so far and he has worked very hard in the training sessions.
“I was pleased that he crowned his performance with two goals.
“I thought his target play, his general movement and his ability to keep the ball for us was also very good.
“But front players need goals and that will be a very big weight off his mind.
“It will mean he doesn’t have to worry too much about the coming matches.”
With their Barclays Premier League opener still 17 days away, Liverpool were without 10 of their World Cup players for the third qualifying round first leg.
The likes of Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson were left to train on Merseyside while Fernando Torres, Jose Reina and Dirk Kuyt are still on holiday.
Ngog was one of only a handful of recognised senior players on duty along with Lucas, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Alberto Aquilani.
Youngsters David Amoo, Jay Spearing and Martin Kelly all took the chance to impress against a limited Rabotnicki side and Hodgson’s selection was fully vindicated.
“I am very satisfied,” Hodgson said. “It was a game that could have been very difficult for us.
“It was a big crowd and some of our players that played are not used to big crowds.
“I was really pleased with the way everyone went about their business and we can go back to Anfield with a margin of victory which will enable us to feel a little more comfortable.”
Pictures emerged after the game of Rabotnicki fans appearing to direct monkey taunts at Liverpool players.
Liverpool started the game with two black players in double goalscorer Ngog and impressive 19-year-old winger Amoo.
Macedonian football has had problems with racism before and their governing body was fined after England players Emile Heskey, Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell were subjected to abuse during an international in 2003.