Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A right Royals evening

After a not terribly inspiring first half, and Liverpool going in one up after a rather fortuitous own-goal in their favour from Ryan Bertrand, second tier Reading fought back tenaciously to rob the Reds of a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup, winning 2-1 in extra time. Midway through the second period the game suddenly became electrifying. Indeed, on the 79th minute it nearly produced the goal of the season so far. The Royals' Jobi McAnuff ran through the entire Liverpool midfield with a series of exquisite touches, only to miscalculate his final move in the box -- aiming to place the ball to the right of Cavalieri, rather than to chip the 'keeper.

That moment alone merited their last minute equaliser from the spot by Gylfi Sigurdsson, after Yossi Benayoun was adjudged (perhaps slightly harshly) to have challenged Shane Long unfairly. To their immense credit, Reading came out fighting again in extra time, not simply sitting back for a penalty shoot out. In the last 50 minutes of the match they played with commitment and, sometimes, verve. Liverpool, meanwhile, looked a pale imitation of themselves, especially when bereft of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. Reading's winner from Shane Long's close range header was well-worked and well-taken. From then on it was a tense scrap to the finishing line. In summary, a fantastic victory for the lower league club.

Liverpool look disconsolate at the end: out of the two cup competitions, out of the Champions League, out of the Premier League title race... and probably struggling to beat Manchester City to that crucial fourth CL qualifying place too. There will be those baying for Rafa Benitez's head tomorrow, though Reds fans are generally more level headed than many. But the problems on the pitch mirror much deeper seated difficulties in the boardroom, arising from the debt loaded onto the club by its absent owners. Picking up the pieces is going to be very difficult. And the idea that another manager can wave a magic wand at this stage of the season is deluded. That doesn't mean it won't happen, of course. This is football.

1 comment:

Alan Findlay said...

An excellent critique there Simon. Spot on.

Rafa will be sacked though.