Liverpool 2 Reading 0: A Comprehensive Victory

Posted by Garstonite on November 4, 2006, 07:48:22 PM

After the dress rehearsal in the cup a couple of weeks ago, The Royals were back in town. Same two football clubs, but two different teams fielded, as both Benitez and Coppell restored some of their key men.

Benitez went for our strongest back-line, including ‘keeper Pepe Reina inbetween the sticks. A midfield four, which contained (from right to left) Pennant Alonso, Gerrard - in the centre for a change - and Zenden over on the left. Up front a familiar partnership of Peter Crouch and Dirk Kuyt.

Coppell’s men set-up in a 4-5-1, leaving Kevin Doyle up front on his own, only servicing and supporting him on counter-attacks.

It was a bitter evening at Anfield, as I developed frostbite in the opening thirty minutes. I must have looked like I was mimicking that goal celebration from Michael Owen from my seat in the Paddock. Smile obviously excluded. Depressingly, the floodlights were required to light up a gloomy Anfield surface, too. Bloody farmers.

The customary boo rang around the ground as the referee for today was read out over the tannoy, Uriah Rennie. For once, I actually meant it. In hindsight, he didn’t have a bad game, but he hardly had World War 3 on his hands.

Liverpool’s early start did nothing to remove the Jack Dee expression I had on my face, as Reading started the brighter. If it wasn’t bad enough, somebody about three rows behind me thought he was John Motson and started commentating on the game. ‘Xabi Alonso… back to Sami Hyypia, across to Carragher....’ Truly bizarre. Where does the RTK campaign stand on this?!

Glenn Little – who was one of Reading’s better performers both today and in the League Cup game – received the ball on the wing and pulled the ball back to the advancing James Harper. If it wasn’t for Jamie Carragher desperately tracking back, they would have taken the lead. No harm was done and Liverpool could take it as a warning.

Benitez was up on the touchline shouting words of encouragement to his players, but the players in Red couldn’t find the fluidity they had against Villa last week, as Alonso and Gerrard couldn’t get a grip on the game and Zenden and Pennant weren’t offering the width we needed to stretch the opponents.

But on fifteen minutes, a beautifully lofted cross from Steven Gerrard found Peter Crouch in a promising position. Everybody rose out of their seats expecting the big man to head home, but a half-scuffed header found Dirk Kuyt in space. The Dutchman adjusted his body and fired home to give Liverpool a lead they didn’t particularly deserve. 1-0.

After the opening goal, everybody predicted the game would open up, as Reading would have to come in search of an equaliser. They never really did. Liverpool still had the initiative, but Reading weren’t committing men forward, leaving a polite Kevin Doyle to raise his thumb and clap at… well, crap balls forward.

Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher, given the space to roam due to the fact they only had to worry about one striker, were probably Liverpool’s best attacking players on the pitch. And, seriously, that is no exaggeration. The two were like Brito and Piazza from the famous Brazil 1970 World Cup squad: defenders by name, but not necessarily by nature. In a good way, that is.

Steven Gerrard was the instigator in everything that was threatening about Liverpool, as he waltzed around the field with the good kind of arrogance. Once again he threw the ball into a dangerous position and Ivar Ingimarsson – whose name would collect more points in scrabble than Reading are likely to get in the league this season – deflected the ball towards his own goal. Marcus Hahnemman – whose borrowed Robert Pires’ slug beard – spared his defenders blushes.

Kuyt had another chance when he headed wide, following a cross from the right hand side. His headers towards goal have a touch of the Crouch’s about them and it is one attribute that he is lacking from fully warranting the comparisons with Alan Shearer. I am very critical, I know.

Steven Gerrard beat Sam Sodje a couple of times, before curling the ball just wide, after half an hour, before Jermaine Pennant struck a shot from range, which Hahnemann saved fairly comfortably. It was good pressure from Liverpool and Reading were looking fatigued already.

Jamie Carragher – with his license to get forward – ran into space before flashing the ball just over the top. He ran back towards The Kop to an acknowledgeable ovation. God knows how Anfield will react when/if he actually fires one in.

Half time came and the opposition looked fairly happy to be going in at the break just a goal down. George read out the scores from around the Premiership, as Pako lead out the substitutes for a half-time warm up. There’s something really nice about the same old routines at Anfield, which is rightfully reclaiming the ‘fortress’ tag.

The second half got underway and Reading started to take the initiative as the likes of Long and Little began to support the lone striker. But Hyypia still looked enthusiastic in getting forward past the half-way and about ten minutes into the second half curled a shot just over the crossbar.

Mark Gonzalez replaced Zenden whose performance can only be described as ‘industrious’, but in search of another goal, Benitez added more creativity and pace to the side with the Chilean International.

Whilst the debate will still continue over Steven Gerrard, on today’s performance, where he played in three different positions – as a central midfield, a left midfielder and as a second striker – one thing is clear: it doesn’t matter where he plays, because just as long as he is on the field, he will be a menace to the opposition. The skipper was unlucky not to score today and it’s great to see him regaining some form.

Gerrard fired in a shot that was knocked behind for a corner by a Reading defender and from the resulting set-piece, delivered well by Pennant, Gerrard almost scored with a glancing header.

Crouch caused commotion in the penalty area shortly afterwards and won a corner. The ball was floated in and Crouch, unmarked, headed the ball at the American goalkeeper Hahnemann, but he parried it out into a threatening position and Kuyt fired the ball in with his left-foot from close range. A real striker’s goal and his fifth on the season. 2-0 and Mohamed Sissoko soon came on to eek the game out.

The last fifteen minutes were comfortable for Liverpool. Ibrahima Sonko had about a dozen throw-ins, that he delivers as well as a cross, that were dealt with comfortably from Hyypia: from one colossus to another. Ki-Hyeon Soel had an opportunity to score with his first touch of the ball, but his shot was fairly easy to handle from Pepe Reina who was about as active as Onslo from Keeping Up Appearances, in truth.

Robbie Fowler came on with about five minutes to go and just as he did against Aston Villa last week, found himself in an opportunity to score, but some good defending inside the six yard box from Sam Sodje (I think) snuffed out the danger.

Gerrard almost capped off a great day’s work with a goal, but his header was collected by their goalkeeper.

The final whistle went. Business as usual at Anfield. The confidence taken from these four home wins needs to be taken onto the road, as we face 3 matches away from Anfield.

Steve Coppell will be glad that he doesn’t have to come here again in another two weeks, but it seems that they have more than enough about them to do reasonably well this season.

Man of the match: Sami Hyypia. Sounds fairly negative to give MOTM to a centre-half in a match that we won 2-0 and the opposition had about four shots in, but his contribution and distribution was simply awesome. Two Xabi Alonso-esque passes found their targets in the second half and his dominant headers and escapades into uncharted territory gave Liverpool an unexpected source of threat.

© Garstonite 2006

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