Bertrand (og) 45
Sigurdsson (pen) 90+4
A new year but old ways still persist and may be taken to a new low with another unconvincing and careless performance.
Unconvincing as Reading had plenty of chances in the game and at times, as has often been the case this season, we appeared devoid of inspiration and creativity. Careless as once more concentration or nerves meant we were unable to see the game out blowing it yet again in the final minutes albeit to a dubious penalty. Even then we didn’t have the nous to “right the wrong” in extra time. Ironic, as before this game Rafa instructed the side to cut out the mistakes!
Many saw the FA Cup as a chance to save our season but all it did was sum it up so far – underachievement against opposition we should have been expected to beat hell, we were even had two attempts to do it! It’s even more frustrating given the fair run of form we experienced over the Christmas period.
Rafa treated Reading, the game and competition with respect by fielding a strong team. The main changes were Cavalieri and Degen in for the injured Reina and Johnson. The first half was a downer almost from start to finish with Reading having the main chances Cavalieri from Gunnarsson’s free kick and, on twenty minutes Carragher, deep in our area, inexplicably leaving a Reading cross only for Rasiak to miss a howler of an open goal. Then McAnuff, on the break set, Church up who couldn’t get a decisive touch. To add more woe to this sorry cocktail Torres was hauled off with a twisted knee. Slightly injured and Rafa not wanting to take a chance or what?
We rallied slightly, Benayoun latched onto Degen’s pass and almost curled one into the top corner. Finally, on the stroke of half time, Gerrard, from his own corner, received the ball back only to lose it again running into the area only for Ngog to set him up again. He then found the net via a Bertrand deflection. A tad unfortunate for Reading given their chances which was summed up by our skipper’s slightly embarrassed celebration.
In the second half Ryan Babel was wheeled on for Gerrard. Hopefully Rafa felt confident enough to withdraw him or, like Torres, it was something more serious? A good chance for Babel to put himself in the transfer shop window and an encouraging development for Reading? However, strangely enough we made a better fist of it with Beneyoun going close on a few occasions Degen, having quite a good game, getting forward giving more purpose to our general build up play. Aquilani misdirected free kick was lashed wide by Agger and the Italian was then set up nicely by Benayuon but his header on the edge of the six yard area was fluffed.
Nonetheless this was a million miles from the sort of play we would have expected to produce. Reading had “stickability” and must have realised, even as the second half clock ticked down, that there was still hope? McAnuff simply took the p*ss with a long mazy run through our defence before prodding wide. A great run which deserved a goal, fantastic for the neutral but what will the home fans be saying about our defending? Reading’s enthusiasm was rewarded as Long was lightly tapped by Benayoun and exaggeratedly went down. Sigurdsson coolly rolled it home.
Extra time gave us the inevitable as Long, escorted but not challenged by Skrtel, got on the end of Gunnarsson’s cross. Excuses? There aren’t any and like the snow outside my window our season, together with the answer as to what is going wrong, is rapidly melting away.
Liverpool: Cavalieri, Agger, Insua, Carragher, Degen (Skrtel 91), Aquilani, Gerrard (Babel 46), Benayoun, Lucas, Torres (Ngog 29), Kuyt Substitutes: Gulacsi, Aurelio, Skrtel, Spearing, Babel, Ngog, Pacheco
Reading: Federici, Mills, Ingimarsson, Bertrand, Cisse (Howard 59), Gunnarsson, McAnuff, Karacan (Long 81), Sigurdsson, Church, Rasiak (Kebe 65) Substitutes: Hamer, Pearce, Tabb, Matejovsky, Kebe, Howard, Long