Liverpool will have to settle for an FA Cup replay at Anfield before they can dream of lifting the famous cup again after the match ended in a 1-1 stalemate. The magic of the FA Cup as they say was well and truly alive for a feisty Reading who will be raring to go for the Anfield fixture, Liverpool however will have to hope the magic will reappear.
Rafa had started a very strong side and i for one was very happy with the way he treated this cup game and clear opportunity. With Reina, Carragher, Gerrard and Torres all starting along with the regular faces of Insua, Kuyt and Lucas it was a very experienced side put out to face the royals.
Stephen Darby - local lad and a hope for the future was also given a start at the heart of the back four, with Johnson out injured Carragher was pushed out to the right and so the vacant space was given to the promising youngster.
The first real moment of prospect for a slow starting Liverpool side was when David N'Gog hit a powerful effort from outside the area which unfortunately went wide of the post. (Deadly frustrating for myself as i had a cheeky punt on N'Gog to score first, Liverpool 2-0, i was gutted at that stage!). Considering Reading have been a pretty poor side of late it was obvious that the lure of the FA Cup had given them a lease of life, as with a lot of fixtures for the clubs in lower leagues it is always more effective when they come out and give the big boys a go. Reading were excellent in portraying this hence why Liverpool were kept relatively quiet for so long.
20 minutes had passed without any real threat from both sides. With plenty of gritty tackles and the odd bits of positive forward pushing play, it was still that last bit of flair that was missing from the two teams.
23 minutes and Reading manage to find the back of the net courtesy of Simon Church. Again as result of set piece play Liverpool conceded. In what appeared to be a slight mix up between Darby and Lucas, neither managed to deal with the man at the far post, when the ball was then headed back towards goal the Reading striker simply tapped the ball into the net. Might i add at this point was it just me or was Skrtel extremely slow to react? Who's to say he would have got anything on it anyway but he didn't even realise in time to try. Very lackadaisical.
1-0 down, it wasn't what we wanted but the game was definitely still on. 2 goals from Liverpool still seemed very attainable.
In the short period between their goal and our equalizer it was Reading who had capitalised on the inevitable confidence of what scoring against Liverpool gives you. Luckily enough, Liverpool did not allow them to get too settled and also managed to make it 1-1 before half time.
Step up the real Steven Gerrard. For a player who had arguably been a shadow of his real self for the majority of the season, this piece of ingenuity from the captain was the chance Liverpool needed to turn the game on its head.
With what was effectively a double up of a shot and searching cross for Kuyt to get on the end of, the ball eventually found it's way into the back of the net after the Dutchman jumped over the goal bound effort.
With chances from Fabio Aurelio and Fernando Torres failing to allow the lads to take the lead we went into half time with the draw.
In all fairness the 1-1 probably reflected the first 45 minutes play well. It wasn't a fantastic performance from Liverpool but by no means did we deserve to be down.
The second 45 minutes would prove difficult and unfruitful for Liverpool.
One opportunity arose when a corner kick was sent in and Alberto Aquilani found himself almost bumbling the ball into the net, however after an offside decision was given it was again disappointment for Liverpool.
Worth pointing out in Reading's case was the fact that they played out the majority of the second half without their first choice goalkeeper, after Federici was suffering from cramp Hamer the 22 year old reserve was brought on. He was excellent for them and a major aspect in their holding on to the result.
And that was pretty much that. Again it was clear that Liverpool were not on top in terms of how we know they can play but the important thing is that they held on, did not concede a silly late goal and we can now hopefully go to Anfield and finish the deal.
With Manchester United today leaving the competition after Beckford scored the only goal seeing Leeds go through we can be grateful that we have a second chance to progress to the next stage of the competition.
With many a positive to take from the game i.e the general performance from Darby who aside from the shaky moment when Liverpool conceded in the first half seemed very confident and was very keen on getting stuck in, he has definitely placed his name in the list of promising players Liverpool now appear to have building up from the Academy.
Another positive was again the performance from Lucas, he has totally transformed himself this season, i would even go as far to say he was our player of the latter half of 2009. He made some excellent threatening passes last night and was on the majority of occasions the winner in crucial tackles. Well impressed.
At Anfield, we must feel confident and i assume Benitez will again start a strong 11, in doing so i have total belief that we can beat Reading and then possibly go on to give this years FA Cup a good challenge.