Tonight there were two FA Cup replays being played, with Liverpool vs. Reading the pick of the two. These two drew 1-1 when they played at the Madejski Stadium and Liverpool showed their intent to win this game tonight when they picked a full strength squad. Normally the big teams give their reserves a run-out in these cup games but with little else to play for this season Rafa Benetiz clearly had his sights set on the FA Cup.
Liverpool started well and looked comfortable on the attack, Gerrard tested the Goalkeeper with a free-kick whilst Benayoun and Kuyt both gave the defenders the run around. Reading was not set on defending for the whole game though and they came close on nine minutes when a fantastic free-kick from Sigurdsson was punched wide by Cavalieri.
Reading looked very capable and proved that when hitting Liverpool on the counter attack. McAnuff burst away down the right side and with few Liverpool players’ back he whipped in an inch-perfect ball for Church, but the Reading striker somehow failed to make contact with his diving header and the ball rolled wide.
Hearts were in mouths at Anfield when Torres went down injured and was instantly subbed off for N’Gog. The anxiety of the Kop wasn’t helped as Reading looked the most likely to score after dominating for a good spell – without creating any real chances. Yossi Benayoun came close at the other end when his curling shot just flew wide of the post, and the nail-biting fans had their nerves eased in stoppage time of the first half. A messy corner fell to N’Gog who laid of Gerrard in the box, the Liverpool skipper then tried to pull the ball across goal but it struck the leg of defender Bertrand and bounced into the back of the net to give the Premiership team the lead.
Steven Gerrard stayed in the dressing room as the players came out for the second half and word soon filtered out that the captain had picked up an injury. He was replaced by Ryan Babel for the next forty-five minutes.
Liverpool looked to dominate the second half and came close to getting their second on a number of occasions. Kuyt drove a volley well wide before having another deflected even further wide. Benayoun and Babel looked lively and with twenty minutes left the silky skills of Benayoun set up Aquillani with a dinked cross, but the midfield man sent his header over the bar.
Readings’ luck seemed to change with ten minutes to go when McAnuff dribbled through the Liverpool defense, taking on a number of players and finding himself face to face with Cavalieri, the Reading man looked sure to score to end a sweet move but his shot was off target and rolled just beyond the far post. Denying himself a fantastic goal which would have lived long in his memory.
Minutes after McAnuff’s miss, Simon Church found himself free in the Liverpool area after a wonderful cross picked him out, but the striker couldn’t direct the header at goal and sent it over the bar. Reading continued to push for the equalizer, finding extra energy as the match-clock ticked away.
The away side came close again on ninety-one minutes when Sigurdsson’s curling shot was saved in great style by the Liverpool ‘keeper, and just sixty-seconds later Reading had the perfect chance to take something from this game when they were awarded a penalty for a trip on Shane Long. Sigurdsson had thousands of screaming fans trying to put him off but he ignored the noise and cooly sent Cavalieri the wrong way – a dramatic late equalizer to send this game into Extra-Time.
Both sides went for the win as we entered Extra-Time and Liverpool looked the stronger side but Reading were the ones to get their noses in front. Gunnarsson nutmegged Insua on the right hand side before swinging a cross into the box, penalty winner Shane Long got to the ball first and his flick directed it past the keeper; giving Reading the lead after one-hundred minutes of play.
At the end of the first half of Extra-Time Benayoun should have put the team’s level when he found himself one-on-one with Reading Goalkeeper Federici, but the goalkeeper saved the shot with his legs and Reading somehow managed to hold onto their slim lead.
In the final fifteen minutes Liverpool threw everything they had at Reading. N’Gog had a feeble effort on goal followed by a shot straight down the ‘keeper’s throat from Dirk Kuyt as Liverpool charged forward in numbers. Their efforts were in vain though and Reading claimed a famous victory to move into the fourth round of the FA Cup where they will host Burnley.
Elsewhere in the cup Newcastle United entertained Plymouth at St James Park in another third round replay (they had also drawn 1-1 in the previous game). The Magpies strolled to a 3-0 victory thanks to Danish striker Peter Lovenkrands who netted a hat-trick, Newcastle will now head to West Bromwich Albion for a tough fourth round match.