Writer: Steve Guscott
Date:Sunday January 3 2010
2nd January 2010
The Royals earn't themselves an Anfield replay after a fantastic performance against a full strength Liverpool side. Simon Church gave us the lead before Steven Gerrard hit back before the break, although we could have snatched it in the second half.
Brian McDermott resisted temptation to make wholesale changes after the awful performance against Plymouth, bringing in just Matt Mills, Jem Karacan and Grzegorz Rasiak. After a slightly edgy start, understandably considering the opposition, the Royals grew into the game and had the ball in the back of the net after just 15 minutes. Gylfi Sigurdsson`s corner eventually found its way to Jobi McAnuff who headed home but Rasiak was clearly offside and the goal was ruled out.
It continued to be an end to end game, Sigurdsson was involved in everything we did going forward and he had a great penalty shout turned down when Martin Skrtel clearly pulled his shirt but referee Martin Atkinson waved away the appeals. The visitors then went up the other end and a cross from the right eventually found David N`Gog who fired narrowly wide of the far post.
We took the lead though following a great bit of work from McAnuff, who ghosted past the left back Insua before the defender pulled him back and we had a free kick in a dangerous position. Ryan Bertrand whipped it into the back post and Rasiak stopped it going out of play with a neat hook back to Church who tapped in from close range. It was a well deserved lead for McDermott`s side and the Premier League side were rattled.
They responded in typical fashion, Dirk Kuyt setting up Fernando Torres but the Spanish hit man could only head wide. The Reds equalised before the break when Gerrard was allowed too much space in the middle of the park, and he crossed towards Kuyt. The Dutchman, who was just onside, missed the ball and Adam Federici allowed the ball to drift in at the far post probably expecting a touch from Kuyt.
Before the interval, Fabio Aurelio fired wide from a similar position to N`Gog earlier and the visitors were much the better side between scoring and the break. Early in the second half Torres and Sigurdsson both went close and Church put in a delightful low cross only to see it fizz across the goal mouth with no one able to get a touch to send it into the back of the net.
Federici was forced off injured with what appeared to be a pulled hamstring and he was replaced by Ben Hamer, and Brian Howard also came off the bench and he almost set up Church as we approached the final whistle. If the Welshman had scored from the acute angle it would have been a goal of Van Basten proportions, but he just failed to pull it off!
It stoppage time, Torres should have scored but he put his header over when it was easier to score with Hamer in no man`s land. The Royals were fantastic though and deserved their replay next Wednesday.
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Date:Sunday January 3 2010
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