Championship Reading have tonight knocked out Premier League Liverpool in their FA Cup Third Round Replay which took place at Anfield. The visitors won 2-1 after extra time.
Liverpool had looked to have pinched this tie, despite having fewer opportunities to score, when Steve Gerrard forced an own goal in first half stoppage time. It took a last minute of added on time 93rd minute penalty to restore parity before Reading scored again in the first half of extra time to win the tie.
Liverpool began this FA Cup Third Round replay in composed style, having much of possession and carving out a decent chance in the first 15 minutes. Captain Steven Gerrard signalled his teams intent on 8 minutes with a dipping cross from deep which barely eluded Benayoun and Torres who were sliding in to finish from around the six yard line. Defender Gunnarsson for Reading saving the day with the finest of touches to take the ball away from the onrushing Reds.
Reading came back into it afterwards with a good chance against the run of play following good work by Church down the right hand side: he was played in by a long ball and cut back well wrong-footing Daniel Agger. The low cross he delivered towards the far post looked to be Carraghers ball but he completely missed it presenting a gilt edged opportunity to Rasiak who inexplicably hit a tame shot high and wide.
More good work on the right flank, this time from the pacey McAnuff, saw a fantastic cross just glance the forehead of Church when any sort of firm connection would have surely equalled a goal on 25 minutes.
Following this, more trouble for Liverpool was marked by the departure of Fernando Torres: the player left the pitch having twisted his knee on around the half hour mark, to be replaced by Bruno N’Gog.
Lucas and Aquilani in the Liverpool midfield had lost all of their early composure, and began giving the ball away in front of a subdued Anfield crowd.
Benayoun showed his class, however, with five minutes of the half remaining when he hit a first time curling effort for the top-right corner which only missed by inches with Federici in the Reading goal flying high to cover, but looking well beaten by the shot.
Apart from a poorly struck effort from N’Gog, the Israeli’s shot was Liverpool’s best effort of the half, and Reading perhaps deserved to be one up after 45. As it was, Liverpool grabbed a couple of corners in first half stoppage time, which Gerrard, the best player in red, raced over to take before the whistle. The second corner wasn’t cleared effectively and the ball fell back to Gerrard who played a quick one-two and hit the ball hard and low back across goal, a cross that hit Ryan Bertrand before falling somewhat fortuitously in the Reading net.
Steven Gerrard went off at half time to be replaced by Ryan Babel, though the replacement looked to be somewhat surprised by this move as he had emerged from the tunnel in his tracksuit and was finding his place on the substitutes bench when the decision to bring him on was taken. The home side would have to play the final 45 minutes without their two best players after Gerrard apparently felt his hamstring twinge on the way to begin the second period.
Liverpool began the second half in a similar manner to that with which they started this match: keeping composure, and retaining possession for fifteen to twenty minutes without really threatening to score.
Ingimarsson went very close to getting his head on a free kick on 66 minutes that he could, and probably should, have made goalscoring contact with having found himself goal side of the Liverpool defence.
The game didn’t really develop until McAnuff, probably the most exciting player over the two ties, picked up the ball on 80 minutes and ran at the heart of the Liverpool defence at full speed. He gave himself a one-on-one and his placed shot for the bottom corner squirmed narrowly wide of what would have been an historic Reading goal.
Church had another excellent chance from a cross in the 85th minute which found him the wrong side of the defence again. Again, however, his effort was wayward. The player looked furious with his header which looped high over the goal from six or seven yards.
With the tie looking like it was over, and fans beginning to file out of the ground, the ball found its way to Long, who had come on for the last ten minutes at centre forward, just inside the box in the 93rd minute – the final minute of stoppage time. Long was kicked by Benayoun, and dropped to the floor very easily. The referee gave a penalty. A cool take by Sugurdsson to place the ball in the bottom left corner brought about an extra 30 minutes of extra time that was no more than industrious Reading deserved.
Liverpool looked as though they had been cruising and they would certainly need to shift up a gear if they were to make it through to the fourth round without penalties tonight.
Nearly ten minutes of extra time passed without any clear cut chances except when Ryan Babel found himself on the edge of the Reading box with the ball at his feet. The dutch forward hit a feeble shot straight at the Reading goalkeeper. However, Long, who hadn’t scored in 16 matches this season managed to do what his teammates had not in normal time: get his head on a cross and score. Gunnarsson skinned two players on the right-hand side before delivering an inch-perfect cross to the young Irish forward, handing him this chance to score in front of the Kop on a plate.
Reading were two goals to one in front with twenty minutes of extra time remaining.
In the last minute of the first half of extra time, Benayoun found himself one-on-one but fired his low shot straight at the Reading goalkeeper when he should have hit the net. Federici had done well to stay on his feet until the shot came, however.
Liverpool spent much of the second period of extra time camped in the Reading half but lacking a finishing touch. Jamie Carragher had an opportunity on the volley from range with the goalkeeper scurrying, but showed why he has never scored in the FA Cup by blasting high and wide in the 20th minute of extra time.
Reading were playing with composure with five minutes remaining.
In the final thirtieth minute, Kebe had an excellent opportunity for Reading when played in with men over, but he dithered and was tackled by Agger.
There were two minutes added on at the death and Church, up front, worked hard to run the clock down by making blocks. In truth, however, Liverpool without Gerrard or Torres looked a sorry sight, with Aquilani wilting in the middle of the park and, for all of Kuyt’s industry, neither he, nor N’Gog or Babel looked to have the class required to make a positive attacking influence on the game.
And so it would prove, as Federici capped a solid performance by taking an excellent catch before punting the ball as far as he could muster with all of the alloted time played out. The whistle blew soon after. Reading had defeated their Premier League opponents, Liverpool, by two goals to one, at Anfield.