Why must Liverpool take the luster off their performances on the few occasions they impress? After 50 minutes, it looked done and dusted, and I was thrilled. Although Reading had started as the brighter team, a five-minute period at the end of the half saw Liverpool take a two-goal lead. Fowler scored with a pretty flick over the keeper after a lovely defense-splitting pass by Pennant, and Riise struck soon after as Graham Stack parried his first attempt directly back to him.
Soon after the teams came back out Liverpool added a third, with Gabriel Paletta (on his debut) scoring from a Pennant corner. After losing 4-0 over the weekend, and going down 3-0 to Liverpool at Anfield, it didn’t look likely that Reading would get back into this game. And yet, it turned out to be a nearly carbon copy of the Galatasaray match. Three Reading goals from three instances of sloppy defending, and Liverpool was forced to hang on to preserve a 4-3 win.
While it would have been nice to have a clean sheet after the defending so far this season, Andre Bikey’s goal in the 75th minute seemed to be small consolation for Reading. Crouch’s reply minutes later, with him artfully stepping around the keeper to tap in, put Liverpool back up three with little more than 10 minutes of regular time left. But two quick goals from Leroy Lita and Shane Long made the last few minutes far too nervy.
There are so many positives to take away from this match, and yet all I can think about are the late goals. It’s a win, and Liverpool did score four. The senior players played well; Fowler, Crouch, and Riise scored, and Pennant had two assists. It was probably the best game that both Pennant and Zenden played all season. The youth players didn’t look completely out of depth; Paletta scored his first goal for the club, Lee Peltier put in a battling performance, and both Danny Guthrie and James Smith got run-outs as substitutes.
The goals that Liverpool let in were simply careless though, and that’s troublesome. Bikey out-jumped Riise, who was ball watching, to head in the first from a free kick. Glen Little danced around the penalty box before passing to Lita for the second, with 3 Liverpool players missing tackles in the interim. Finally, Long tallied from a completely free header, as there were more Reading players than Liverpool defenders around him when he scored.
I want to put that 10 minutes of madness down to the fact that the back four were mostly youth players who weren’t all used to playing 90 minutes of soccer at this level, and that they thought the game was finished. It’s not particularly heartening, but it’s better than attributing it to the same malaise that has vexed the back line at times this season.
An unfortunate coincidence has been Pepe Reina though. He hasn’t looked as assured in goal this season, and that continued today. Granted, he had an amazing season last year and there was little room for improvement, he’s 23, and I still believe he’s one of the best keepers around. Goalkeeping has a lot to do with confidence, and Pepe seems to be suffering from the lack of it at the moment. I’m sure he’ll work his way out of it, but it certainly isn’t helping matters at present.
However, that’s more than enough moaning. A win’s a win, and four goals are four goals. The draw’s already taken place, and Liverpool will be traveling to Birmingham for the 4th round. I seem to remember the last trip to St. Andrews for a cup match going fairly well.
Villa on Saturday.