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19:15 2th January 2010

Report: Royals earn Anfield replay

Reading 1 (Church 24)
Liverpool 1 (Gerrard 36)

The Royals have ensured that they will be in the hat for the FA Cup fourth round after a wonderful display saw Brian McDermott's men hold Liverpool to a 1-1 draw.

In truth Reading looked the better team for large parts of the game, and Simon Church granted them a first half lead by bundling home Grzegorz Rasiak's cutback after 24 minutes.

Steven Gerrard levelled proceedings as his cross-shot bounced awkwardly before dropping into the corner of the net, though that failed to deter the home side who stayed strong to earn a trip to Anfield for a third round replay.

Reading (4-4-2): Federici (Hamer 69); Gunnarsson, Bertrand, Mills, Ingimarsson (c); Karacan, Cisse (Howard 73), McAnuff, Sigurdsson; Church, Rasiak (Long 77)
Subs: Pearce, Tabb, Kebe, Robson-Kanu.
Yellow: Mills

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Darby, Insua, Carragher, Skrtel, Lucas, Gerrard, Aurelio (Benayoun 79), Kuyt; N'Gog (Aquilani 68), Torres
Subs: Cavalieri, Degen, Kyrgiakos, Spearing, Babel
Yellow: Insua

Ref: M Atkinson

Att: 23,656

First Half
The five times European Champions had the evening's first half chance, as tenacious work from Lucas Leiva saw the Brazilian international floating a cross to the far post, where Fabio Aurelio volleyed wide from a tight angle.

It was a tight opening to the game, with both sides looking as edgy as each other - though perhaps the Royals' nerves were settled slightly fifteen minutes in as Gylfi Sigurdsson's dangerous in-swinging corner was only half cleared by Pepe Reina. Jobi McAnuff headed home the rebound, though Grzegorz Rasiak was interfering with play from an offside position - and so caused the assistant referee to raise his flag and rightly rule out the strike.

Brian McDermott's men continued to grow in confidence as a swift passing move involving Jem Karacan, Jobi McAnuff and Grzegorz Rasiak came within inches of offering Sigurdsson a clear shot on goal, though the home side were given a warning of their visitors' class after 20 minutes as David N'Gog found space to fire wide after a swift breakaway from Dirk Kuyt.

Sigurdsson then had a decent penalty shout as Martin Skrtel held his shirt, but the referee was not swayed.

With Benitez's men flexing their muscles some might have feared the worst, but 2010 started with a bang at a sold-out Madejski Stadium as Reading took the lead a minute later. A set piece from Ryan Bertrand had 'keeper Pepe Reina scrambling to his back post, and just as the ball looked to be heading out of play Rasiak popped up to squeeze it back across the six-yard box - allowing Simon Church to bundle home from no more than a yard out.

Muted protests from the Premier League men that a goal kick should have been called before Grzegorz clipped back were proved wrong by television replays.

Fernando Torres unsurprisingly looked a real threat whenever he came into play, though did unusually squander a genuine chance with 12 minutes remaining in the opening period as he headed Kuyt's cross wide from the penalty spot.

With genuine world class stars in your side a goal can come from anywhere, and so it proved as the Reds drew level 38 minutes in thanks to Steven Gerrard. The England international slung a delightful cross into the centre of the area, and although Dirk Kuyt failed to connect with a desperate dive his lunge was enough to put off Adam Federici as the ball bounced into the far corner of the net.

Again the officials looked to have got an extremely tough decision spot on as Kuyt managed to stay narrowly onside as the ball was played in from a wide area.

Federici did well to prevent Gerrard from teeing up a second goal for the Merseysiders, just denying Torres after the Euro 2008 winner had latched onto a delightfully dinked through ball from the Kop's midfield hero.

Aurelio fizzed another low effort just past the post seconds before the break, meaning McDermott's charges would head into half time level and with plenty more than pride to play for.

Second half
The second period also started as an even affair, with Church looking creative - and Torres sending a dipping effort just over the crossbar. At the other end Sigurdsson showed why he's our leading scorer this season, skipping past Steven Gerrard 30 yards from goal before stinging Reina's palms with a swerving long distance strike.

The lively Jobi McAnuff wasn't put off by the calibre of his opponents and tormented Pool down the right hand side after 65 minutes, teeing up Church, whose low cross skidded across the six-yard box and somehow evaded the on-rushing Royals forward line.

An untimely injury to Adam Federici meant that substitute stopper Ben Hamer came off the bench to make just his third appearance for the club, whilst the Royals' boss showed his attacking intent by replacing Kalifa Cisse with Brian Howard with 16 minutes remaining.

The ex-Barnsley midfielder, who made an FA Cup name for himself two years ago with a winning goal for the Tykes at Anfield, showed great vision to pick out Simon Church with a 20 yard pass after 85 minutes - though the frontman couldn't quite hit the target from a very acute angle.

Just as thoughts were turning to a replay a lapse of concentration almost allowed the visitors to bag a dramatic stoppage time winner, but from Yossi Benayoun's cross Dirk Kuyt headed over with the goal gaping.

The full time whistle did eventually come and the Royals can look forward to Sunday's fourth round draw safe in the knowledge that a trip to Anfield awaits later this month.

Our online TV station Reading FC Player has full match highlights, Brian and Rafa Benitez's video reaction all available now - sign up from less than 10p per day.
    Data provided by Press Association