After handing the job over to Brad Jones for seven games, Pepe Reina's return ended up a touch anticlimactic. No fuss, no doubts, no talk about whether Jones should be given another week in the league and Reina eased back into things mid-week against Young Boys in the Europa League—the Spaniard was fit, so he started.
"I felt good," said Reina of his return to action. "I'm totally fit and glad to be back. I couldn't wait as it was the longest spell in my time here without playing [but] we always wanted to take care of the injury and had to be patient."
In the end there would be no dilemma for the manager, and Reina recorded an easy clean sheet on the way to victory over Wigan to mark his return. There may not have been much for the goalkeeper to do on Saturday against a Wigan side that showed little attacking threat, but Reina did stop the two shots on target he faced. A pair of nearly thirty yard efforts might not signal a 'keeper back on top form, but a clean sheet—only his second of the season—and some solid work with the ball will hopefully provide confidence moving forward for both himself and his teammates.
"The second half was fantastic," he continued. "We dominated the game for 90 minutes but couldn't create enough opportunities in the first half. But the second half was much better for us. We moved the ball very well at a high tempo and we found the space.
"The manager told us at half-time just to keep trying and to move the ball a bit quicker. He told us to be more consistent on our counter-attacks or set pieces. That's what we did and it worked out."
In Reina's absence, Jones looked a strong shot stopper more often than not—arguably even looked a stronger shot stopper than Reina had before falling to injury—though his tendency to hit inaccurate long-balls was always going to be an area of the game that Pepe Reina's return would improve, and especially in the second half against Wigan that improved distribution helped Liverpool to consistently build from the back.
"It was important to get the win. These are the kind of games we need to win, especially at home, to keep climbing up the table and get ourselves in a better position. I'm happy to get the win, happy to come back and happy for the clean sheet as well."
Reina or Jones may not have ended up much of a dilemma when the time came for Rodgers to make the call, but whether Jones deserves to continue to play in the cup competitions as reward for his solid performances—and to keep him sharp in case he's needed in the league again—seems more open to debate. Conversely, no matter Rodgers' long-term intent, there may be a desire to give Reina a few mid-week matches to get him back up to speed after spending a month on the sidelines, leaving Thursday's starter an uncertainty.
For now, though, it's just comforting for Liverpool to see Reina back between the sticks and marking his return with a clean sheet, no matter that the opposition put up little fight. It's also good to know that for the first time in a long time the club has a capable backup option should it be needed.