MATCH REPORT: 2007/2008 Season

8 December 2007: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: Hunt (17 mins, pen), Doyle (60 mins), Harper (67 mins).
Liverpool: Gerrard (28 mins).
Half Time: 1-1
Attendance: 24,022

Pos Team P Pts GD
11 West Ham 14 19 +7
12 READING 16 17 -12
13 Birmingham 16 14 -9
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty (Cisse 90), Sonko (Bikey 81), Ingimarsson, Shorey, Hunt, Harper, Gunnarsson, Convey (Lita 88), Doyle, Kitson. Subs Not Used: Federici, Long.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher (Hyypia 82), Hobbs, Riise, Gerrard (Babel 71), Mascherano, Sissoko, Voronin, Torres (Kewell 61), Crouch. Subs Not Used: Itandje, Kuyt.
Reading: -
Liverpool: Gerrard.
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).
This was probably one of Reading's biggest results in recent history - our first ever Premiership win over a "big four" side, inflicting their first defeat of the season. This was special, very special. It wasn't just that we defeated Liverpool, it was the way in which they were beaten. Reading were the better side for much of the game and thoroughly deserved to win by two goals. Reading fans were of course fearing the worst against a seemingly unbeatable Liverpool side after our poor performance last week against Middlesbrough. The expecations were set so low that this could not have been any more satisfying.

This was an entirely different game and performance from last week. Reading got off to a promising start and kept it going. Reading immediately showed they were keen to attack. As Coppell said after the game - we stuck to playing how we know we can play and didn't change our style to consider Liverpool. Reading's pressure told when Doyle was taken down right on the edge of the Liverpool area with fifteen minutes gone. Doyle was running away from goal but the contact was obvious. What wasn't obvious at the time was if the ball was inside or outside the area. After much debate, the referee stuck to his original decision and awarded the penalty. Hunt cooly stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way before putting his penalty into the bottom left corner of the net. With Reading ahead, Liverpool looked dazed and Reading poured forward. Gunnarsson had previously had a chance to score, Doyle saw an effort just over the target and Convey smashed a superb long range effort that was inches away from finding the top corner of the net. Reading were looking good, playing fast flowing football, not afraid to pass the ball around and certainly not afraid to attack.

It was against the run of play when Liverpool drew level. After a previous effort that had hit the post, they'd looked quiet and were struggling to create any clear cut chances. With their lack of success in midfield or down the wings it wasn't much suprise that their goal came from a long hoof up field from their goalkeeper. The ball was played through and Gerrard run onto goal to bury it. The goal celebrations showed what we all knew - that Liverpool had come expecting to win this game with ease. It was as though the goal was expected to them and plenty more were to come. Perhaps Reading thought the same for a brief spell as the game changed as Liverpool started to look more in control. However, Reading held out comfortably until half time.

After the break the pattern continued and it was Liverpool that had chances to take the lead. Hahnemann made a couple of good saves, and they should have perhaps done better from a close range effort that was blasted wide. However, with Liverpool failing to make their mark on the game it was Reading that began to look more likely again. Hunt was up to his usual tricks, running rings around the Liverpool defence. They'd resorted to throwing men at Hunt to try and stop his mazy runs. It was Gerrard that found he had no option but to hack Hunt down not far outside the area, and picked up the only yellow card of the game for his efforts. Shorey floated in the free-kick, which might have found the target itself until the slightest of touches from Kevin Doyle's head saw the ball rest firmly into the back of the net. 2-1 to Reading and the Madejski erupted.

Reading's amazing afternoon was summed up by the quality of the third goal. Bobby Convey saw Harper's run and played the perfect ball into his path. Harper out paced a couple of Liverpool defenders before taking the ball around the advancing goal keeper and calmly striking it home from an angle to make it 3-1. It was an excellent goal that killed Liverpool off. Gerrard hit the Reading crossbar with a long range effort that dipped dramatically, however the chances were starting to look thin. Rather than attempt to salvage the game it was as if Liverpool knew they were beaten. With time running out and still no way through they conceeded defeat with the substitutions of Carragher and Gerrard.

Perhaps the only disappointing thing was the angle the press took on the game after Liverpool manager Benitez bleated on about the referee's performance. The Liverpool manager will only look more pathetic after concentrating on that in his post-match interviews. The simple facts were that Liverpool's penalty claims were invalid after Sonko played the ball first, and Reading's penalty was correctly awarded as TV replays showed the foul was committed on the line. Benitez simply had no justification for complaints at the officials. He should have directed all his complains at his own team, who were beaten by a better side on the day.

The image of James Harper racing clear of the Liverpool defence, rounding the 'keeper and calmly sliding the ball into the empty net will, I am sure, leave an indelible impression on my memory. Apart from watching the replays on television, I replayed the goal in my mind several times on the long journey home. Not only was it a piece of true Premier League quality finishing it secured what must be surely the finest victory in the history of the club. Liverpool, clearly one of the better sides in Europe, unbeaten in the league, and with a defence which had not conceded a goal for over six hours, were soundly beaten by a determined and confident Royals team currently struggling to find their best form. The fact that Rafa Benitez and Alan Green on Radio Five were left bemoaning the injustice of an incorrect penalty award and Liverpool underperforming only made the result more satisfying. Not only were they wrong about the penalty decision, they once again demonstrated how blinkered they are in failing to fully appreciate the elements of this Reading performance which brought a deserved victory.

Liverpool fielded their strongest side and opted to play with an adventurous three man attack in Crouch, Torres and Voronin. With Gerrard driving forward through the middle there was a danger Reading could have been overwhelmed. Ingamarsson set the tone by dispossessing Torres in the second minute. It was feat to be repeated again later by both Ingamarsson and Sonko later in the game with superbly timed tackles. The first chance however did fall to Torres when a Riise long throw landed at his feet on the edge of the goal area. It seemed to take him by surprise and he stabbed the ball straight at Hahnemann. Gunnarsson not only seemed to be relishing the challenge of getting to grips with Gerrard in midfield but was getting forward and drew a save from Reina. Although Liverpool enjoyed possession Reading made good use of the ball when they did have it and were always looking to penetrate with their passing, as was perfectly illustrated by the move which lead to Reading's first goal on seventeen minutes. A long diagonal ball from Shorey found Convey wide on the right who showed great awareness by using his first touch to lay the ball in to meet Gunarsson's well timed run. The speed and quality of the play drew Carrragher into a rash challenge on the edge of the penalty area. The referee's assistant was in no doubt and gave it immediately. It looked to me, as was proved later, to be just inside the box. The protests and delay did nothing to unnerve Hunt who tucked away the penalty superbly. Convey nearly made it two with a shot across goal after good work by Kitson gave him a chance out wide on the left. The game was now stretched and there was room in midfield for players to run with the ball. It was a long punt upfield however which lead to Liverpool's equaliser. Sonko seemed to be out of position and Torres brought the ball down and rolled a pass square to Gerrard, who, after shrugging off a challenge from Hunt, finished well. Just before half time Voronin tested Hahnemann with a rasping shot which he parried away for a corner.

As expected Liverpool went pressing for the second goal after the interval but to everyone's surprise it was Reading who took the lead. The tenacity of Hunt gave Reading a free kick when he was brought down by Gerrard as he accelerated towards the penalty area. Shorey's free kick curled inside the far post with Doyle claiming the faintest of touches. Liverpool continued to apply the pressure as Reading kept heir heads and looked to take advantage of possession with controlled but direst play. On sixty-seven minutes Doyle managed to feed the ball to Convey at the second attempt who once again showing tremendous awareness and passing ability laid the ball into the path of Harper bursting through the middle. Pace, composure, and excellent touch, took Harper, under pressure, into the area and around Reina before rolling the ball into the net. The stadium erupted. When Gerrard's long range strike hit the bar two minutes later hit the bar everyone, including Rafa bonitos, began to believe it was Reading's night. The Liverpool manager almost immediately withdrew Gerrard to save him for the midweek European tie. Crouch hit the post but the mainly quiet Liverpool following were beginning to drift away.

It was typical of Reading at their best with everyone doing their bit for the cause, but on this occasion it work against opposition of the highest calibre. It is further evidence that some of the established players are becoming more comfortable at this level. The next challenge is to overcome teams with less ability but more desperate for a point. The only aspect of the evening I found slightly disappointing was the way over half the home fans drifted away long before the final whistle. I suspect many of them had not been supporting Reading long enough to appreciate what they had just seen. Surely it was a performance deserving of a standing ovation from a packed stadium, but I suppose the thrill of getting out of the car park first is hard to resist!
John Wells

Only Reading, only Reading could produce a performance like that today after the dross last week against Boro. Yet again Reading FC hurl a huge bowl of humble pie and custard over my face after laying into them last week, more than happy to lick every drop off my face. Yes we rode our luck but who gives a toss about that, this was the mighty Liverpool, and on the same day Oxford lost against Northwich in the Conference we were convincingly, deceivingly beating the mighty Liverpool. Just shows how far we have come. A classic gutsy fighting performance from the Royals with the likes of Gunnarsson, Harper, Doyle, Ingimarsson and Kitson all having stormers and dying for the shirt. Can't ask for any more. I thought Doyle had a great game and Harps finish for the third was sublime. Still can't believe it, nor would anybody listening to the phone in on 6-0-6 on 5 Live after the game as Liverpool fans by the dozen called in to castigated Benitez and their bunch of superstars, with not one giving us any credit or an iota of respect, tossers the lot of them. A week at least to be a proud Royal... UURRZZZZ.
Nick Newbury

At last a performance to be proud of, this was what we should have done against Arsenal. I donít mind us losing to the big four as long as we give them a game. This time the luck was with us, when perhaps it hasnít been of late. But you earn your luck in this game and with 110% commitment we got what we deserved. High energy, lots of tackles, not being frightened by reputations, is the way to go. It felt like last season all over. All we need to do now, is do it again and again and again! Well done lads.
Nick Tilehurst

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