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Aug 16, 2010

Hodgson stands by Cole and Reina

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has backed Joe Cole and Jose Reina after the pair's red card and goalkeeping blunder conspired to allow Arsenal to snatch a point from their season opener at Anfield on Sunday.

• Report: Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal
• Liverpool decide against Cole appeal
• Richard Jolly at Anfield
• Saturday: Blackpool coast to victory
• Premier League Team of the Week
• Premier League gallery

Cole's Premier League debut for Liverpool ended shortly before half-time as he was dismissed for a lunging challenge on Arsenal new boy Laurent Koscielny but the Reds managed to take the lead early in the second half through David Ngog.

Liverpool looked like holding on for victory with resolute defending until late in the match when Reina first mis-handled a cross onto the post under pressure from Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh and then fumbled the rebound into his own net.

Hodgson refused to blame either player for the result, insisting that Cole was unlucky to have seen red for his challenge. Cole launched with two feet in attempt to block Koscielny's clearance but the block became a dangerous tangle of legs on the accidental follow through.

"(Cole) will be a big loss if he is suspended,'' said Hodgson, facing up to the fact his big-name summer signing now faces a three-game ban. "We will look at the video again, maybe try to find out from the referee and experts if we do have a case for appeal. I don't want a frivolous appeal but Joe Cole has an unblemished record in his career. He has never been sent off and has very few yellow cards. Anyone who has watched Joe play will realise he is not the guy that goes in for blood-curdling tackles. Replays suggest he was a little bit unlucky.''

Reina's howler came minutes after he had produced a fine fingertip save to keep out a brilliant Tomas Rosicky shot.

Hodgson said: "I thought he played well considering he didn't have an awful lot to do, but what he did came spasmodically. There were an enormous number of positives but the unfortunate negative was that he let in a goal which under normal circumstances he would have kept out.''

The loss of Cole loss didn't detract from Liverpool's defensive shape, although it gifted Arsenal the lion's share of possession, allowing the visitors to build the pressure that led to the equaliser. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger praised Liverpool's defensive effort and said Cole's dismissal proved frustrating to the overall pattern of the match.

"When we were playing against 10 men it became very difficult as they defended very deep," Wenger said. "In fairness to them, they defended very well and took some fluency out of the game. But I give credit to my team because we kept going and kept going and in the end we got the equaliser. Considering we are at Liverpool, it is a decent result.''

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