Sterling sinks brave Royals
A single strike from Raheem Sterling was enough to grant Liverpol all three points at Anfield on Saturday afternoon, despite a valiant effort from Brian McDermott's side.
The England under 21 international's well taken effort came after 29 minutes, as he showed good pace to get into the right hand side of the box before finishing brilliantly past McCarthy.
The home side enjoyed plenty of shots at goal, but were still forced to drop deep in the closing stages as the Royals fought hard for a point.
Garath McCleary twice came close, whilst Jobi McAnuff also tested Brad Jones in the second period - but to no avail.
Heads will be held high as the Royals go again against Fulham next weekend.
Both sides started the game with a fair amount of impetus – with Liverpool growing in confidence after the opening exchanges, as Glen Johnson was denied a goalscoring opportunity by a brave tackle from Kaspars Gorkss.
Johnson in particular looked lively early on, with the England full back finding himself in the type of positions that most strikers would envy.
There was some more high class, last-ditch defending from the Royals after 15 minutes – as Adrian Mariappa through himself in front of Raheem Sterling’s low drive after Luis Suarez had broken down the right flank.
The red shirted attacks came in relentless waves, as Sterling was involved once more – cutting in from the left and whipping a long range effort at McCarthy – who held well.
There was a blow for McDermott’s men midway through the half, as a crunching 50-50 challenge between Steven Gerrard and Jem Karacan left the Turkish midfielder worse for wear, and he was forced to limp off – to be replaced by Garath McCleary.
If there was any confusion created by that switch then it was instantly capitalised on – as the electric Sterling galloped into the box before squaring to Sahin, who blazed over from a decent position in the box.
That wastefulness perhaps prompted the England under 21 international to go it alone, as he opened the scoring shortly before the half hour mark.
Popping up on the right this time, the Liverpool Academy product raced into the box before clinically rolling the ball past McCarthy and inside the post.
Suarez almost made it two five minutes later, lashing a shot narrowly wide from 25 yards.
There was half an opening for Mikele Leigertwood from 25 yards just before the break, but the Antiguan international couldn’t control his curling effort – and saw it swing over the bar.
Shortly afterwards Johnson stung the palms of McCarthy, with his rasping strike perhaps to central to really test the Royals Academy product.
Liverpool’s firepower didn’t drop off in the second period, as they almost instantly clicked back into gear – with Sterling again testing McCarthy with a snap shop from close range.
Captain Jobi McAnuff then won his team a free-kick on the left hand side of the penalty area in front of the travelling support, though Guthrie’s set-piece dipped over Jones’ bar.
Johnson responded for Brendan Rodgers’ side again gallivanting forward before cracking a shot over the bar from long range.
McCarthy’s sliced kick then presented Suarez with another chance to double his side’s lead, but the Royals ‘keeper redeemed himself with a smart save low to his left.
At the other end Garath McCleary then found himself with a golden opportunity to grab a leveller, as he raced onto a long ball over the top – but this time it was Jones who saved well to keep the scoreboard unchanged.
McAnuff went one step closer, doing brilliantly to drop his shoulder and breeze past a couple of red shirts – before seeing his curled shot palmed away by Jones.
The game was certainly not short of goalscoring opportunities – on the hour mark Suarez again found himself in a good position, but could only clip his first time shot into the Kop End.
The visitors seem to show far more belief in the second half, enjoying more possession – and almost crafting an opportunity as Kebe beat Jones to the ball after 65 minutes to square into the box – but Liverpool cleared their lines well before any blue and white shirt could tap into an empty net.
Naturally there was always plenty to deal with for the Royals backline, as substitute Jonjo Shelvey squandered a good opportunity seconds later, mis-controlling in acres of room inside the box.
Captain Steven Gerrard then tested McCarthy from a similar position with 67 on the clock, but Reading’s stopper did really well to get down low and tip around the post.
McCarthy pulled off another fantastic save shortly afterwards, standing up well to kick away Johnson’s first time slap shot.
Reading kept plugging away and showing their attacking intent, as Adam Le Fondre was introduced for the last 15 minutes.
Suarez continuously found himself in dangerous positions in front of the Kop, but still couldn’t find the net – as the number seven crashed a shot wide from 12 yards, when he really should have done better.
At the opposite end McCleary again found space inside the box, but as he jinked inside could only drag his shot wide.
Jason Roberts was introduced into the fray with ten minutes remaining – receiving a warm round of applause from both sets of supporters.
The Grenadian’s power did cause problems for the home defence, who dropped a little deeper in the closing stages as McDermott’s men frantically scrapped for an equaliser.
It wasn’t to be however, and last year’s Football League Champions were forced to leave the home of the five time European Champions with nothing but pride.