Match Report: 2009/2010 Season

2 January 2010: FA CUP ROUND 3
Reading: Church (24 mins).
Liverpool: Gerrard (36 mins).
Half Time: 1-1
Attendance: 23,656

Pos Team P Pts GD
19 Ipswich 23 24 -7
20 READING 24 23 -13
21 Scunthorpe 23 23 -19
Reading: Federici (Hamer, 69), Mills, Ingimarsson, Bertrand, McAnuff, Cisse (Howard, 74), Karacan, Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, Rasiak (Long, 77), Church. Subs not used: Tabb, Kebe, Pearce, Robson-Kanu.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio (Benayoun, 79), Darby, Insua, Gerrard, Lucas, Torres, Ngog (Aquilani, 68), Kuyt. Subs not used: Kyrgiakos, Degen, Babel, Cavalieri, Spearing.
Reading: Mills.
Liverpool: Insua.
Ref: M Atkinson (W. Yorkshire)
Given Reading's current form and league position, an away win was the most likely outcome of this third round cup tie, but inspired by an energetic display from Jem Karacan in midfiled Reading earned a replay at Anfield, and having forced a corner in added time, Reading fans were even contemplating the possibility of what would have been a remarkable victory. In the end a draw was a fair result as the Royals reacted to the poor display at Home Park earlier in the week with a positive and disciplined performance against a lack lustre Liverpool side. The key to Reading's unexpected success was the pairing of Karacan and Cisse in midfield where Steven Gerrard and other such reputable players were never allowed to gain control of midfield. Cisse's strength ensured the physical battle was never going to be lost and the speed at which Karacan closed players down made it very difficult for the visitors to gain any momentum. This was however far from a two man show. The passing at times was very sharp and Reading enjoyed a lot more possession than I had expected. Mills and Ingimarsson handled Torres well, and although Liverpool seemed to find a extra man at the far post on a couple of occasions, the back four held their shape well and never allowed themselves to become stretched. It has been a long time since I have seen such a well organised and disciplined display from a Reading midfield too. As soon as Liverpool gained possession McAnuff, Sigurdssson, Cisse and Karacan were back and spread across the pitch to protect the back four. I could not help wonder whether such discipline could have been achieved with Matejovsky and Howard in the side. Rasiak provided the long ball option, although his tendency to hang on to the ball too long at times cost Reading possession. and Church ran tirelessly to pressurise the visitors defence.

It was the combined efforts of the front two which produced the opening goal midway through the first half. McAnuff's deep cross from a free kick was hooked back by Rasiak at the far post and as Liverpool defenders switched off Church was in the right place to deflect the ball into the net. The goal offered Reading the encouragement they needed. It took Liverpool just over ten minutes to equalise. Steven Gerrard cut in from the left and whipped the ball across the face of the goal. Kuyt ran across the flight of the ball and distracted Federici sufficiently to make him hesitate and allow the ball to curl inside the far post. Reading appealed hopefully for an offside flag but replays vindicated the officials the decision to allow the goal. Liverpool then had the momentum to take control of the game but Reading were in no mood to succumb to pressure. Having reached half time deservedly level there was growing feeling Reading might manage a draw. Ten minutes into the second half Reading's expectations were further raised as Sigurdsson ran through the centre of midfield and drew a good save from Reina, and the ball ran loose but unfortunately no Reading player available to take advantage. Liverpool had to work hard to contain Reading at times and they struggled to penetrate Reading's well organised defence.

With just over twenty minutes to go Federici appeared to damage his hamstring clearing a long ball and had to be replaced by Ben Hamer. It was not an ideal time for the young 'keeper to make his FA Cup debut and he looked hesitant on crosses although he came out bravely to gather from Torres towards the end. His confidence was further undermined when he came out the gather a loose ball and Mills hoofed it away away. Judging by his reaction he had called for it and expected the defender to leave it for him. This only increased to the tension and as the added time approached Liverpool seemed to settle fro a draw which in itself was a tribute to the Royals gutsy performance. The home fans went home happy and the players have a trip to Anfied to enjoy where once again they will be relieved of the burden of expectation and can have a real go at their illustrious opponents.

Steve Coppell, who was given an appropriately warm welcome by the home fans, provided an entertaining post script to the evening with his response to the post match questioning by the Radio Berkshire commentary team. Yes Steve you are right - they really do ask some silly questions!
John Wells


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Championship strugglers Reading deservedly forced a replay against Liverpool after an entertaining and finely balanced FA Cup third-round tie at the Madejski Stadium. ...Reading responded after the break and arguably looked the more likely to score the winner, although Fernando Torres headed narrowly over in the final minutes after substitute keeper Ben Hamer failed to collect a cross. There were few clear openings at either end before the home side took the lead but there was no doubt that they deserved their goal after an opening period in which they had slowly but definitely wrestled the initiative.
Reading caretaker manager Brian McDermott:
"It was terrific. I thought we were full value for the replay and we might even have nicked the game. But to get another game at Anfield, we're absolutely delighted with that, especially for those 1,500 supporters who travelled to Plymouth when we didn't perform the other day. People said there was no pressure on us today but there is always pressure. The last thing we want to be is embarrassed in a game of football. A side like Liverpool can embarrass you if you are not careful."