It wasn’t fluid, it wasn’t perfect, and I don’t know if Liverpool was really worth a 2-0 win, but the win is what counts. Reading proved to be tricky opposition, with a well-marshaled packed midfield that prevented Liverpool from fully controlling the game.
This was a game that could have ended 0-0 in previous seasons, despite the 2-0 scoreline. To often it seemed that Liverpool lost possession in midfield pushing towards Reading’s goal. Steve Coppell’s men harassed and hassled, closing down quickly and preventing passes, and Liverpool never quite clicked as they did against Villa or Bordeaux. In years past, when Liverpool has difficulty putting moves together, they haven’t gotten enough good shots to get the goal they need. But Dirk Kuyt, with a lot of help from Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard, prevented that.
Kuyt two goals were classic striker’s goals. The first came because he knew where to be for Crouch’s perfect knock down, slotting into an empty net in the 14th minute. The second came because of his awareness and positioning; he reacted quickest to bundle the ball in at the back post after Crouch’s header was saved by Marcus Hahnemann. It really feels as if I’m praising Kuyt too much, in everything I write, but I firmly believe he’s exactly what the front line needed. Not to mention the little things he does, like running back half the field to block a corner with less than 10 minutes left and the game wrapped up.
The clean sheet is encouraging as well, although Reading never put Liverpool under much pressure. Reading wasn’t going to create a lot of opportunities playing with a lone striker, but Liverpool defended capably when they had to. There weren’t any real lapses of concentration, which has plagued the back line at times, and were so untroubled that the center backs were able to press forward as they pleased. Reading had set piece opportunities, but Liverpool defended well on all of them, with the only close call ruled out for a clear foul on Reina. I don’t imagine we’ll be hearing any complaints about zonal marking on free kicks and corners this week.
It’s been said elsewhere, but it’s worth mentioning again. This is now the 22nd game in a row that Liverpool is unbeaten at Anfield. 19 wins, 3 draws, 15 clean sheets, and 0 losses since Chelsea last October. It may not have been the best performance, but they continue to win at home. Once Liverpool is able to replicate this form on the road, especially games where they don’t play their best but still get a 2-0 win, will we be able to talk about Liverpool competing with the best of the league. Away games are coming up Wednesday against Birmingham and Saturday against Arsenal.