MATCH REPORT: 2006/2007 Season

Reading: Gunnarsson (47 mins).
Liverpool: Arbeloa (15 mins), Kuyt (86 mins).
Half Time: 0-1
Attendance: 24,121

Pos Team P Pts GD
8 Portsmouth 32 46 +6
9 READING 32 44 +3
10 Newcastle 32 40 -5
Reading: Hahnemann, Gunnarsson, Ingimarsson, Duberry (Bikey 46), Shorey, Oster (Lita 82), Sidwell, Harper, Hunt, Doyle, Kitson. Subs Not Used: Federici, Long, Halford.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Arbeloa, Gerrard, Sissoko, Mascherano, Gonzalez (Riise 79), Crouch (Pennant 65), Bellamy (Kuyt 50). Subs Not Used: Dudek, Agger.
Reading: Kitson, Hahnemann.
Liverpool: Sissoko.
Ref: P Walton (Northamptonshire).
This was Reading's fifth defeat from seven games - and it was the seventh game without a win. However those statistics and this scoreline isn't a fair reflection of events on the pitch. Today Reading more than matched Liverpool, and were in fact the better side for much of the game. Reading played some good football again today against a very high class of opposition. We deserved at least a point and maybe more but conceeded a late goal that saw Liverpool steal the full three points. However, that was the price to pay after a lack of concentration in the last four minutes saw Bikey caught out and a free header put past Hahnemann to seal the win for the visitors.

It's to Reading's credit that Liverpool's first goal came against the run of play - on a counter attack after Reading lost possession from a free-kick deep inside the Liverpool half. Liverpool had been under a fair amount of pressure before they took the lead just before the break with a sweeping move that showed you're never safe against a team of this quality. Before the Royals found themselves a goal down they might have moved ahead. John Oster was awarded a start with Glen Little out injured and was working hard up front. Some of his clever passes inside the Liverpool area didn't quite work out with his team mates failing to read his intentions. However Oster nearly fired Reading ahead with a powerful effort that needed the first save of the game. Kevin Doyle broke through moments later to fire a decent effort not far over the crossbar. With Reading pushing there was a strong case for a penalty before Hahnemann's first real involvement was to pick the ball out of the back of the net.

Duberry had gone down in a heap in a heavy collision with Ingimarsson and didn't emerge after the break. Bikey came off the bench and, with the exception of the Liverpool's late winner, had a solid game and played some superb diagonal balls across the pitch. It was refreshing after Duberry had lost possession and made a handful of mistakes - a negative mark against an otherwise superb defensive Reading performance. Gunnarsson was simply stunning at right back. He didn't do a thing wrong, keeping it simple and effective. He was also decisive coming forward - hitting the equaliser not long after the break. Oster played a great cross into Gunnarsson's path on the right. He looked like he might have taken it too wide but then hit the ball across the goal, and the goalkeeper, and into the far side of the net. A top quality strike to make it 1-1.

With the scores level again and most of the second half to play, we felt that Reading were most likely to take the win. Crouch headed the ball against his own crossbar as Reading continued to threaten. However, when the next goal didn't come quickly, Liverpool settled down. The game went nearly scrappy for a bit and three Liverpool substitutions appeared to break Reading's grip on the game. With eight minutes left Lita replaced Oster - but he hardly got a touch of the ball. Reading seemed to be out of ideas and instead Liverpool broke free to cross from the right and head home at the far post. Three minutes of stoppage time came and went as Liverpool saw out the win.

Having come back from being a goal down at half time, against opponents currently on the verge of reaching the last four of Europe’s top competition, Reading were denied the point their typically spirited and adventurous performance deserved, by a header from Kuyt just four minutes from full time. Ironically it was Shorey, who had looked by far Reading’s most accomplished player throughout, losing possession on the half way line which lead indirectly to Liverpool’s winner.

For most of the first half Liverpool seemed content to contain Reading and hit them on the break. Although lacking any guile, Hunt was presenting Liverpool a few problems with his direct and aggressive running with the ball, and it was his pass after seven minutes which presented Oster with the first real chance of the game. The resulting shot was blocked and Hunt took a tumble as Reyna came after the ball but nobody was convinced it was a foul, least of all the man the mattered. Against the run of play Liverpool broke out quickly and took the lead following a Reading free kick. There were defenders back in time to deal with the problem but their naive attempt at playing Arbeloa offside failed and the full back calmly curled the ball around Hahnemann. Doyle had a chance to level the score two minutes later but scooped his shoot over from the edge of the area. Reading began to lose their way as half time approached. Sidwell, Duberry and Oster carelessly conceded possession in quick succession as Reading struggled to break down a well organised Liverpool defence. Shorey stood out with his composure on the ball and crisp passing. Last season Reading were opening up defences with Little and Convey getting behind defences, and today their cutting edge was clearly missed.

At half time Duberry was replaced by Bikey presumably due to injury and the discussion in the dressing room had an immediate impact. Within two minutes Reading were level. Hunt swivelled and clipped a ball over the Liverpool defence and Gunnarsson ran onto it and smacked the ball in off the far post. A minute later the ineffective and hugely unpopular Bellamy took a dive in the box and was booed by the Reading fans and rightly ignored by the referee. In the next Reading attack Hunt had a shot blocked. Liverpool were looking uncomfortable for the first time in the game and were constantly ranting and the referees assistant over offside decisions.

The Royals had regained their self belief and were clearly going for a win. On sixty-three minutes they nearly took the lead when Crouch headed against his own crossbar. It had become a fast open game which was clearly going to be to Liverpool's advantage with players of the quality of Kuyt and Pennant coming off the bench and Gerrard foraging in midfield. It was Reading's adventurous spirit which was their undoing in the end as Shorey tried to take players on lost the ball. Liverpool found Pennant on the left who floated a ball to the far post for Kuyt to nod down past Hahnemann. It was more than Liverpool deserved but was always on the cards.


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