Youngsters defeated by Merseysiders
The Royals Under-23s suffered a Premier League 2 setback at the hands of their Liverpool counterparts, who ran out 5-1 winners at Adams Park.
The Reds took a two-goal lead into the break as Joe Gomez struck and Rhian Brewster notched twice either side of a Joseph Mendes penalty.
But Ben Woodburn's finish on the counter put the result beyond doubt in the second period and Nathan Phillips finished smartly late on, as Liverpool took the points with them back to Merseyside.
Martin Kuhl had three attackers from the senior squad at his disposal, with Mendes, Deniss Rakels and Yakou Meite all starting for the Royals.
And two of that forward trio combined to good effect in the opening minutes to force the first save of the game – Andy Rinomhota threaded an early ball through, allowing Mendes and Rakels to link up on the edge of the area. Goalkeeper Kamil Grabara was equal to the Frenchman’s effort.
And stopper George Legg had his first save to make at the other end, as Reds captain Harry Wilson cut off the right to strike fiercely on his left.
But after palming the ball wide for a corner, Legg’s next task was to pick it out of his net – Wilson’s delivery was volleyed by the onrushing Gomez on the edge of the six-yard box, high into the net.
The Reds began to take control and had several openings in succession, with Sheyi Ojo at the centre of the action. Tyler Frost, filling at full-back, made it difficult for him to get onto the end of a low cross by Trent Alexander-Arnold, and then a stinging effort by the wide-man needed strong palms from Legg. Ojo latched onto the follow-up but struck the woodwork from a wide angle.
The Royals withheld pressure to keep the game within a goal – and then had chances in succession for each of the front three. Mendes bulldozed his was into a shooting position from the left and had a low shot saved, before turning provider for Meite – whose goalbound effort needed hacked off the line by Phillips. Rakels was then fed by Rinomhota, and forced a low stop as he guided his effort towards the near post.
Between those openings, Omar Richards was called upon to make a superbly-timed tackle to deny Brewster a run clean through on goal - he took a risk by sliding in, but made good contact.
However Liverpool made the Royals pay for wasted opportunities through Brewster – winning the ball on half-way, the Reds put together a quick combo before the forward lashed low and hard from the edge of to open a two-goal lead.
That margin was cut back down to one within two minutes – receiving just beyond the centre-circle, Rinomhota had options either side, but he used those as distractions to the Reds defence and drove straight into the box, and drew a foul. The ref pointed to the spot, and Mendes stepped up to convert, just inside the side-netting.
But they reopened the two-goal cushion before the break; Ojo was slotted in down the inside left channel, and a low effort across goal struck the post and fell ideally for Brewster – just onside – to rush in and hammer home.
Reading had a couple of slim chances to get back to within a goal after the interval; Rakels' half-volley soon after the restart was askew, and Mendes and Holsgrove in succession were well-shepherded by the Reds defence after good work at the back stick by Rinomhota.
So instead it was Liverpool who grabbed the game's fifth, countering quickly through Wilson, who slipped a neat ball across to Woodburn to finish expertly midway through the second half.
Liverpool had a few more late openings through Wilson, who fired high and wide, and Woodburn, whose effort was well-saved by Legg. Visiting goalie Grabara wasn't overused, as a few promising attacks broke down at the last.
And the visitors earned a fifth in the closing minutes through defender Phillips, who shot low and hard from the left and found the bottom corner.
Full-time: Reading U23 1-5 Liverpool U23
Reading U23: Legg, Frost, Richard, Osho, Dickie (c), Holsgrove, Rinomhota, Barrett, Meite (Holmes HT), Rakels (Novakovich 63), Mendes.
Unused subs: Southwood, Hyam, Smith.
Goal: Mendes (36 pen).
Liverpool U23: Grabara, Alexander-Arnold, Randall, Phillips, Gomez, Stewart, Wilson (c), Woodburn, Brewster (Gomes 76), Grujic (Virtue 60), Ojo.
Unused subs: Kelleher, Williams, Whelan.
Goals: Gomez (6), Brewster (34, 42), Woodburn (66), Phillips (88).