Royals earn point with Liverpool in thrilling draw
The Royals played their part in a truly thrilling 0-0 draw with Europa League hopefuls Liverpool at Madejski Stadium.
Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, in for the injured Adam Federici, produced a number of world-class saves as the Reds' array of attacking talent were kept at bay.
But we certainly had chances of our own to win it - Danny Guthrie had a couple of goal-bound strikes blocked, Noel Hunt had a sliding effort from six yards denied and McAnuff forced Pepe Reina to tip over his dangerous looping shot.
Goalless it ended - but in truth it could have been 3-3! Certainly a positive point for the Royals - their first under new manager Nigel Adkins.
Royals (4-2-3-1): McCarthy; Gunter, Morrison, Mariappa, Kelly; Karacan (Carrico 57), Guthrie; McAnuff, Hunt (Le Fondre 79), McCleary; Pogrebnyak (Blackman 74).
Subs not used: Taylor, Harte, Pearce, Leigertwood.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Enrique, Agger, Carragher, Lucas, Henderson (Downing 57), Gerrard, Coutinho, Sturridge, Suarez.
Subs not used: Jones, Coates, Skrtel, Shelvey, Suso, Assaidi.
Attendance: 24,139 (2,225 visiting supporters)
It was a poignant prelude to the game; the Royals and Reds took to the field, followed by Reading Owner Anton Zingarevich and Liverpool's Managing Director Ian Ayre - with two supporters from each club - to lay a floral tribute to the 96 in the centre circle. A minute's silence was then impeccably observed by all.
An uneventful first ten minutes ensued, though it was a fairly bright start from a Reading point of view. Jobi McAnuff forced a corner early doors, before Danny Guthrie's dangerous ball caused Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina problems - but referee Mark Clattenburg gave a free kick for Noel Hunt's challenge on the Spaniard.
Visitors Liverpool then had their first chance of the game. Luis Suarez was picked out in a great position in Reading's box and deftly flicked over Alex McCarthy - but Chris Gunter was our hero as he scampered to the line and headed away.
McCarthy was then called in to action twice in quick succession. He first denied Daniel Sturridge's effort before Philippe Coutinho had a bending shot well dealt with by the Academy graduate.
The Royals then upped the ante; forcing England right back Glen Johnson into a panicky clearance, before earning a corner - only for Reina to comfortable save Sean Morrison's difficult header.
Jobi McAnuff then earned a free kick - taken quickly and eventually finding Jem Karacan - whose deflected strike won another corner - the Royals certainly on top in this spell.
But the Royals nearly shot themselves in the foot moments later. Gunter's misplaced pass set up a dangerous counter attack - Suarez burst forward and had a strike denied by McCarthy before Adrian Mariappa blocked Steven Gerrard's follow-up. Let off.
Minutes before half time, the Royals had a great counter-attacking chance of their own. McAnuff found Hunt, who laced in McCleary - then to be felled by Lucas as the Jamaican raced inside towards goal. But Guthrie's ensuing free kick couldn't quite find the target man of Morrison - and Liverpool survived.
Jordan Henderson struck wide, before McCarthy bravely blocked Sturridge's point blank shot from six yards, before Daniel Agger's glancing header bounced wide. Reading survived too - 0-0 at the break.
Nigel Adkins' men made a positive start to the second half. Jobi McAnuff earned a free kick, taken by Guthrie and it was so very nearly met by the head of Morrison.
Moments later - Liverpool charged forward and Gerrard picked out Coutinho, who flicked superbly into the net - but thankfully the assistant referee flagged for offside. Replays showed that the Brazilian was well offside.
The half began to lull, but it wasn't too long before the Royals were on the charge. Guthrie skilfully evaded two Liverpool defenders before seeing two strikes desperately blocked - moments before Coutinho fired narrowly wide at the other end.
Daniel Carrico, on a substitute, made an impressive mark on the game - often winning the ball in midfield and looking positive going forwards.
Then came the best chance of the match. Pavel Pogrebnyak raced down the left on the edge of the box, and picked out Hunt superbly - and although the Irishman got something on it, the ball somehow took a ricochet off Reina - only to loop into the feet of McCleary, but he blazed over.
Reading were on top. Some more excellent link up play created more chances - Reina had to be on his guard once again before Guthrie had a strike agonisingly charged down by a Liverpool body.
With little more than 10 minutes to go, the Royals nearly clinched a winner. McAnuff found himself in a great position on the edge of the area, managed to swivel and stab an effort at goal - but Reina did well to tip it over.
Royals supporters were on their feet as Reading looked stronger and stronger as the half went on - though they breathed a sigh of relief when Suarez' venomous free kick skipped off the post minutes before McCarthy comfortably saved a hopeful strike from the forward.
Liverpool though, always looked a threat on the break and went close when Downing cut inside from the right to strike - thankfully wide.
Then McCarthy produced two absolutely heroic saves to keep the scoreline level. First, the 23-year-old made a stunning save to deny Gerrard's top-corner goal bound effort, before standing as solid a rock to gobble up Suarez' point-block shot just moments later. McCarthy saved a tamer effort from Downing to eradicate the danger - with Royals fans singing the Academy product's name loud and clear.
Sturridge then broke clear of the Reading defence - but wasted his effort by firing over as the fourth official indicated four minutes of added time.
The action wasn't over by any means; Jobi McAnuff burst forward with Liverpool's defence all at sea, held it up well before the skipper so very nearly played Le Fondre through on goal.
McCarthy then produced another world-class save to deny Suarez, as Royals fans sung 'England's number one' - with England manager Roy Hodgson watching on. McAnuff had a half-hearted penalty appeal turned down as he tangled with Jamie Carragher, before the game was up.
The final whistle was greeted by an enormous noise of appreciation by the Royals supporters, who witnessed a scintillating stalement at Madejski Stadium - our first point under Adkins, and hopefully the first of many.