Reading keep up unbeaten run in new seasonReading continued their unbeaten start to the Barclays Under-21 Premier League Division 1 season with a 2-1 win against their Liverpool counterparts at Madejski Stadium.
Both Royals goals came before the break – Andrija Novakovich slotted in a cool first shortly after the half-hour mark, while Rowan Liburd netted his third in as many games since his summer arrival as he stabbed in from close range following a corner. An own-goal in Liverpool’s favour with two minutes to go set up a nervy finish, but in the end Reading took a maximum return.
The pace and power of summer signing Liburd had twice came close to forcing errors in the early stages – he charged down a backpass and forced Tiago Ilori into a desperate clearance, before almost nicking the ball away from Joe Maguire. Defender Sean Long had to be alert at the other end to block from Joao Teixeira, who had wriggled free in the box.
The first meaningful save was forced by Conor Shaughnessy, whose powerful side-footed effort from 20 yards was held at the second attempt after good work on the right wing by Tariqe Fosu. The Reds also went close as Sergi Canos looped a header onto the roof of the net, and soon after Stuart Moore registered his first save as he kept out a Harry Wilson strike with his legs.
Liverpool had been growing into the game well and Ryan Kent’s curling free-kick forced a smart low save from Moore – but moments later at the other end, Reading were in front. Clever build-up play from Shaughnessy and Liburd allowed Novakovich to take possession and pass the ball calmly into the net with a powerful side-footed effort.
And the lead was doubled before the break through Liburd – as a corner was whipped over from the left, Pierce Sweeney rose well at the back post to head into the danger area. The Reds couldn’t hack clear from the six-yard box, allowing the forward to prod home Reading’s second.
Liam Kelly, on at the interval, was almost involved in a fine third goal for the Reading – he chested down Fosu’s cross from the left, but inadvertently Novakovich’s half-volley wide. At the other end, Moore was again called into action as he denied Kent from close range, and then Kent again caused problems as he got outside on the left and his rasping drive needed a Reading toe to take it off target.
When called upon, Moore was standing firm between the sticks – as the game edged into the final quarter, he pulled out an excellent low reaction save to turn away a 12-yard strike from Cameron Brannagan, who looked favourite to finish off a quick interchange in the Royals area.
Sub Harry Cardwell almost profited when the ball was won high upfield – he opted to shoot when there was the option of laying in teammate Fosu, and his 20-yard effort rose marginally over the crossbar.
Liverpool came back within a goal when Moore inadvertently punched the ball into his own net with two minutes remaining on the clock – but he made amends with a tremendous double-save in added time to allow the Royals to claim all three points.
Full-time: Reading U21 2-1 Liverpool U21
Reading U21: Moore, Long, Griffin, Kuhl, Hyam, Sweeney, Stacey (Kelly HT), Shaughnessy, Liburd (Cardwell 60), Novakovich, Fosu (Owusu 76).
Unused subs: Ward, Fridjonsson.
Goals: Novakovich (35), Liburd (42).
Liverpool U21: Firth, Whelan, Maguire, Cleary, Ilori (Randall 72), O’Hanlon (Gomes 78), Canos, Brannagan, Wilson, Teixeira (Dunn 72), Kent.
Unused subs: Wheeler, Brewitt.
Goal: Moore o.g. (89).