On the back of an International Break where your players flew all around the world to play for their respective countries, you’ll just take the three points. After seeing your first choice goalkeeper ruled out and one half of your senior strikers laid up on the treatment table until January, you’ll be happy to get the three points. Watching a 17 year old find the net at the top level for the first time makes that three points a little more special. When it’s October and the long wait for the first home win of the season sends you into the right half of the table, three points is worth even more. It’s a victory, a clean sheetand a beautiful fall weekend all rolled into one; it could have been better, but we’re not about to complain.
As time ticked down, you started to worry. Raheem Sterling became the second youngest Liverpool player to score a competitve goal for the first team when he opened the scoring in the 29th minute with a razor sharp strike after latching onto a Luis Suarez through-ball, but we’d seen this story far too many times. Possession hasn’t always translated into points and we were seeing far too much of the ball for this to go our way.
Sterling and Johnson were creating havoc down the left flank, Suarez was darting through the middle, Suso and Wisdom were holding their own on the right side and our midfield trio — Allen, Gerrard and Sahin — were comfortable in throughout the first half as the Reds knocked the ball about with ease. Possession allowed us to build, our buildup allowed us create, our creations turned into chances and you know the story from there. The chances? Well, they went begging time and again and with them a real sense set in that a stronger team would have punished us once, if not multiple times, for our rampant wastefulness in front of net.
By the time the first half whistle blew, you would have expected the Reds to wrap it up early in the second; that is, if you knew absolutely nothing about this team. We enjoyed controlling the ball over sixty percent of the time during the first half, but by the end of the second, Reading had chipped that down to the mid-fifties with a battling performance that Brian McDermott can take heart from. The Royals are still looking for their first Premiership win of the season, though they didn’t play like a side languishing in the relegation zone.
With Pepe on the sidelines, deputy goalkeeper Brad Jonesearned his crust with an outstanding performance; Sterling put us in the drivers seat, but the Aussie was the reason we didn’t run out of gas.
By the time the final whistle was blown, Shelvey would be on for Sahin, Enrique replaced Suso and Henderson was granted the honor of giving Sterling a break as Rodgers tried to see out the match with some defensive steel. As the half dragged on and the Reds retreated, Reading grew in confidence. Garath McCleary tested Jones with a rasping low drive after breaking clear of the flat footed Liverpool backline and Jobi McAnuff was denied the equalizer only by the tips of the Australian’s fingers; still, that’s not to say that we weren’t creating at the other end.
Steven Gerrard’s off the ball running made space all over the pitch and as the Reading defense was dragged around in pursuit, there were chances to be had. The only problem is that not a single one amounted to anything. Luis Suarez spent the first half being kicked around the pitch and despite winning a free kick — to thunderous, jeering applause — the Uruguayan continued to frustrate almost as much as he amazed. Inch perfect cross field passes were coupled with off-target shots, darting runs paired with balls over the bar, and that never surrender attitude that makes him a Kop idol was mixed up with some petulant behavior that even a hardened Red would shake their head at with downcast eyes. We need a real Number 9 for our Number 7 to shine; if not, I fear he’s going to tarnish before our very eyes.
Three points is a welcome tally and a clean sheet makes all the better. While we still have work to do in front of both nets, the seismic shift in fortunes today is enough to bring a smile to the face. Our second win of the season catapults us into the the top half of the table and gives us a platform from which to spring further. The defense improved, the midfield contained, the forward line continues to grow accustomed to each other and Rodgers, once again, proves that things are getting better. Every win doesn’t need to be comprehensive — I’ve been saying for years that squeezing by is just as important as smashing through — so, it’s nice to win one when it would have been just as easy not to.
Anyone have a punt with Betegy this weekend? If not, quit throwing your money away.