Liverpool Crash Out Of FA Cup
I asked in my last blog post whether Liverpool could mount a serious challenge in the FA Cup, the answer?
A resounding no.
Even if that fluky own goal from Bertrand was what allowed us to scrape through, i still wouldn't have felt confident even against Burnley on the basis of that performance.
Very disappointed and it truly does feel like a new low at this moment in time, this loss is not like any other from the rest of the season, this one feels like a turning point.
Question is, what will be the change? Because all i know is the lads need a massive boost. Soon.
The starting 11 was again a very strong one put out by Rafa, who realised the importance of progress through the competition. With the only exception perhaps being Cavalieri in goal and Degen starting due to Johnson still being out, it was a full force team from the boss.
Even with the majority of our key players on the pitch, the spark was never there. Reading appeared comfortable for the majority of the first half and it wasn't until dot on half time that their efforts were undone.
Steven Gerrard saw a speculative effort deflect goal bound off the on loan Chelsea player Ryan Bertrand. This goal summed up our first half display to be honest - Lucky.
Lucky to still be in with a shout, i remember thinking before the goal came in that half time could not come sooner, after fading and fading and the disappointment of seeing Torres leave the pitch we needed the break.
Second half i thought we found a slight bit of composure, there was definitely spells of good passing and movement but none to which anything was produced from. As i said in my new Tumblr blog at half time, i still felt Reading had plenty left in the tank.
To make things worse, Gerrard did not re-appear from the tunnel for the second half and was replaced with Ryan Babel.
Reading however could not find the answer to send this game to extra time within free play. It was a penalty decision that in the end allowed them to level up the scoreline at 93minutes.
I still feel the decision was slightly controversial, most people i have spoken to thought it was a stone-waller, but some people, like myself did feel he made a meal of it and that on several occasions referee's have shunned those calls.
Without falling back on excuses i just felt this needed pointing out because it requires comparison to the Aquilani incident which occurs in extra time.
Upon jumping for a header, which he was prevented from even getting his head to, Aquilani was quite obviously impeded in the box by a Reading defender who was smothering the Italian, hands all over him and clearly attempting to prevent his attack.
For me, this was the real bad decision, again, i don't like to fall back on excuses but Phil Dowd was simply wrong.
Reading managed to find their winning goal at 100minutes in all fairness, it was a very good goal, a great cross from Gunnarsson was met by Shane Long's glancing header. Notable point to add was that Skrtel who had been brought on at extra time for Degen (I still can't really figure this one out) had rings run around him by Long when the cross was coming in, far too easily he was allowed to get into space. This perhaps adds another question... If Carragher was still in the centre would the Reading striker have been given so much freedom?
Degen was by far the best player on the pitch for me, at first it was all invasive runs into the opposition half and i did not see much of his defensive accolades, however as the game went on, he made sure he was tracking back if a threat was on and gained possession from several crunching tackles.
For people (mainly the Twitter/Facebook/Forum folk) who have been calling for him to be sold in this window after barely even seeing enough to make a fair decision of him, i sincerely hope they think twice.
With Johnson out for at least a month, why sell to buy another RB when we appear to have a very effective one already. Yes, OK this performance was against Reading but not even the likes of Benayoun, Gerrard (when on) or Aquilani could shine against the weaker opposition. Credit fully deserved for the Swiss international.
And so with Benayoun's chance sent straight at the keeper, Lucas's header sent nowhere and Aquilani's one wide. Liverpool exit the FA Cup, and far from in style.
Where do we go from here?
With finding ourselves out of the League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League, our only slim chance at silverware is the Europa League, and you get the feeling that chance is becoming thinner and thinner.
What i do know is we must focus on the league and fully get behind the lads. They know they were a shambles, is it right to "boo" them off the field though? I still find myself strongly against that sort of reaction.
With Stoke up next, all we can focus on is three points and providing our utmost support for the lads and the Gaffa, because no matter how you feel or which way you look at it, it is VITAL that we continue to capitalize on our somewhat small run of two wins in the league.
With the Spurs game being cancelled and now this deflating result in the FA Cup, that train of confidence (if it was there) from the wins over Wolves and Villa has now been shattered. Defeat against Stoke could be disastrous.
No further news on the injuries to Gerrard, Torres and Benayoun, however they are due to have scans today to see the extent of the damage. I only hope, it is not too serious in all three cases.