Liverpool 1 Reading 0: Lessons as Sterling fires Reds to Anfield victory
Liverpool 1 Reading 0: What did we learn as Raheem Sterling netted his first Reds goal in a narrow victory at Anfield?
Sahin sparkles in Liverpool’s midfield
Aided by Lucas Leiva’s unfortunate thigh injury and Jonjo Shelvey’s three-game suspension, Nuri Sahin is starting to have a growing influence on Liverpool’s performances. The Turkey international, on a season-long loan from Real Madrid, has replaced Steven Gerrard as the box-to-box midfielder who can make surging runs into the opposition area and provide a timely finish to a sweeping move. The 24-year-old came close to scoring twice in the first half, once from close-range before a more ambitious effort drifted over the crossbar. His best chance to net his third Liverpool goal came when he spread the ball wonderfully out to the left with Raheem Sterling in acres of space, the winger raced to the byline before reversing the ball back to Sahin who failed to beat Reading’s Alex McCarthy. The former Borussia Dortmund star produced 12 probing passes in the final third as he looked to release Sterling and Luis Suárez. He was unlucky to be replaced Shevley in the 62nd minute, with Suso enduring a quiet afternoon, but Sahin will become a central figure for the Reds as the season progresses.
Sterling caps impressive run with first Liverpool goal
In a difficult start to the Premier League campaign, Sterling has been a bright light amid some frustrating performances and results. The 17-year-old made his debut in a 2-0 defeat by Arsenal and sufficiently impressed Brendan Rodgers to remain an ever-present in the Liverpool first-team since. The former Queens Park Rangers youth star has pace in abundance, while also possessing a catalogue of tricks to outwit defenders. He brings an exciting unpredictability which Liverpool have lacked since the days of Steve McManaman who used to terrorise opponents at Anfield. He teed up Steven Gerrard for the Reds captain’s strike in a 5-2 victory over Norwich City prior to the Reading clash, and Sterling finally capped a sparkling introduction to the top flight with his first goal. Suárez played a delightful chipped pass over a static Royals defence, and Sterling had sufficient pace to streak past Shaun Cummings and tuck his effort low into the left corner of the Reading goal.
Anfield rallies around Suárez
Suárez was the obvious focus in Liverpool’s 1-0 victory over Reading, with the Uruguayan’s attempts to win favourable refereeing decisions extracting a relentless reaction from a partisan Anfield crowd. The referee, Roger East, was not swayed by a number of early claims from Suárez before the official finally sided with the Uruguayan following a late challenge from Kaspars Gorkss. Ironically, it appeared Suárez had made the most of minimal contact to win the free-kick, but it drew the loudest cheer of the opening half despite Sterling’s earlier strike. There was another flash point on the stroke of half-time as the former Ajax man went down in a heap on the edge of Reading’s area – no award was forthcoming and East was given a guard of honour from the Liverpool players as the opening period came to an end. It continued after half-time as Suárez was penalised for shielding the ball from a Reading defender, much to chagrin of the Reds supporters. Deep into added time, East’s decision to award Suárez his second free-kick of the day was roundly and sarcastically cheered by Anfield. The diving debate surrounding the Uruguay international is not going away but Liverpool are intent on backing their talisman.
Reading favourites for the drop
Reading are looking like favourites for the drop after just eight Premier League games. Brian McDermott’s side showed plenty of endeavour against the 18-time English champions but were unconvincing in defence, while the visitors failed to carve out any clear cut chances for their striker Pavel Pogrebnyak. The Russian, signed on a free transfer in the summer, failed to register a single shot on Brad Jones’ goal, and Reading were restricted to three attempts which drew comfortable saves from Liverpool’s second-choice goalkeeper. McDermott’s men were also the beneficiaries of some wasteful Suárez finishing – the 24-year-old had 10 shots on Reading’s goal but only managed to guide one on target. In addition, Sahin and Shevley were both guilty of missing what appeared straightforward goals in a narrow victory which really should have been much more comprehensive. The next month will be crucial for Reading’s hopes of survival, with ties against fellow strugglers Norwich City and QPR, plus winnable home games against Fulham and Everton.