Thursday, October 26, 2006

CARLING KOP Liverpool 4-3 Reading

135 years without a competitive fixture against the most successful football club in England and then two turn up at once. Our first ever visit to Anfield for a Carling Cup tie threw up an unlikely thriller which the Premiership fixture in ten days time will do well to better.

Stood in the Arkles pub before the game enjoying a chat with our friendly scouse hosts, Floyd on Football feared the worst. The team line-ups came across the SKY Sports ticker on the televisions in the pub; Liverpool's changed line-up could still boast the likes of Reina, Riise, Agger, Zenden, Sissoko, Pennant, Crouch and Fowler with a substitutes bench including Kuyt and Carragher. Reading by contrast in making 8 changes fielded the likes of Stack and Halls who had frankly failed to impress in their Reading careers so far and an unfamiliar midfield role was given to Andre Bikey! All three impressed in what was a slow burner of a match that will become memorable for all the right reasons after a torrid couple of weeks.

Sinking the traditional pre-match tipple of Guinness (in honour of our Irish contingent, you understand) Floyd on Football belted across the road in teeming rain to the Anfield Road End which housed the Reading supporters expecting to be greeted by a half empty ground. It was pleasantly surprising to see Anfield choc-full and the familiar strains of You'll Never Walk Alone with scarves held aloft made for an impressive sight. This is a football mad city alright and we were never made to feel anything less than welcome by police, stewards and our scouse drinking buddies in the pub.

The first half, for the most part, was less impressive. Both teams struggled initially on a saturated surface although Reading'g unfamiliar line-up began to force a number of corners at the Kop End and as a direct result of one of those flag-kicks Ulises De La Cruz, who enjoyed a far better game than he did against Arsenal, had a range-finder easily smothered by Reina. At the other end Graham Stack moved smartly across his goal to parry a deflected Zenden effort whilst the industrious John Oster saw a cross-shot hacked behind at the end of a smart move with Gunnarsson's header from the subsequent corner failing to trouble Reina. Reading were giving easily as good as they were getting although Fowler served notice of his intentions with an acrobatic effort over the top. Offside anyway.

Floyd on Football was guilty of doing some clock-watching. 42 minutes up on the Anfield score-board and a decent blank-sheet at half time would be more than satisfactory. Yet when the teams trailed off at half time we were 2-0 down; Pennant's through ball found FOWLER who rolled past Stack and a matter of moments later the Reading 'keeper produced a fine parry to deny a Riise stinger. The Reading defence had a Keystone Cops moment, looked at one another and politely waited for RIISE to lash home the rebound. A thoroughly disappointing defecit as we had competed well without overly threatening; Lita was working hard but Shane Long again had the rabbit caught in headlights look about him.

And five minutes into the second half we were staring a bad defeat in the face without ever having played too badly. PALETTA thumped a Pennant corner into the corner of the net with a fine header and it was game over. Not that Reading didn't have chances after this; the disappointing Stephen Hunt was fed with an opportunity ten yards out an an angle following good work by Oster, yet the little Irishman didn't even manage to get the effort on target. His compatriot Shane Long then found himself clear of the last man advancing on Reina only for his second touch to let him down and take the ball tamely wide. A goal did come when Hunt was fouled by Paletta and Glen Little's teasing set-piece was buried by the bruising BIKEY.

This was the signal for the start of a mad last quarter of an hour, as CROUCH rounded Stack for 4-1 with Reading players bitterly arguing a foul on Gunnarsson which later saw the Icelandar substituted with a damaged tooth. Jose Mourinho would have been apoplectic. Still Reading came back, pinball in the box led to the wizard LITA applying a finishing touch after Long, Hunt and then Halls had played flipper. The Reading supporters were by this point on their feet and making a right din, sensing an unlikely comeback which became an outside possibility as Oster set up Little for a cross headed home by LONG as the first in a queue of three Reading players waiting at the far post. Kuyt spanked a stunning effort against the woodwork, but by this time the Liverpool 'keeper was flapping like an injured goose and another bouncing ball across the box was turned fractionally wide of the upright by Ingimarsson as one of three Reading players waiting to put the ball over the line at point blank range with seemingly every Liverpool player back defending.

At the end of four exciting minutes of injury time referee Walton whsitled to signal Liverpool's progress into Round 4 and the Reading supporters showed their appreciation for the belated attempt at salvaging result and looked forward to more of the same kind of hunger with a more familiar line-up in ten days time.

Reading: Stack, Halls, De La Cruz, Ingimarsson, Gunnarsson (Sodje, 83), Little, Oster, Bikey, Hunt, Long, Lita. Subs not used: Hahnemann, Osano, Hayes, Joseph-Dubois.

Floyd's Favourite: Little. He can count himself very unlucky not to be in the first XI. Providing perfect inspiration for Seol to keep his performance level high.


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