Long night for Liverpool

Liverpool 1 Reading 2 (after extra-time)

Liverpool 1 Reading 2 (after extra-time)

Liverpool’s disastrous season plunged to new depths as they suffered a humiliating FA Cup exit at Anfield to Reading.

The Reds lost Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to injuries and were stunned by the Coca-Cola Championship side, who forced extra-time before substitute Shane Long headed the winner in this third round replay.

Gerrard had seen a shot deflected home by Reading defender Ryan Bertrand to give Liverpool the lead in the final seconds of the first-half.

They held that lead until injury-time, when Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised from the spot. However, Liverpool were a shambles in extra-time and Long’s winner was no more than Reading deserved.

Liverpool were boosted ahead of the tie by confirmation that the deal to sign Argentina winger Maxi Rodriguez had been completed.

The 29 year-old has signed on a free transfer, having negotiated his way out of a problem over his pay-off from Atletico Madrid which had held up the deal at the weekend.

The Royals were quick to make their presence felt with some uncompromising tackling. Matthew Mills got away with a warning for clattering into Torres, before Jem Karacan was booked for flattening Steven Gerrard in the first four minutes.

And although Liverpool had the majority of the early possession, Diego Cavalieri had to make a fine save from Sigurdsson’s free-kick, then a shot on the turn from Simon Church.

Dirk Kuyt needed treatment following a fierce challenge by Bertrand, before Reading should have taken the lead after 22 minutes when Church’s cross was allowed to reach the far post – where Grzegorz Rasiak missed the target from three yards.

Liverpool’s problems worsened after 29 minutes when Torres went off, replaced by David Ngog. The Spanish international had never rally recovered from that early body check from Mills and headed straight down the tunnel with Liverpool doctor, Mark Waller, for treatment seemingly to a knee injury.

The home side, at best, were aimless, but did manage to put together a 40th-minute move which almost bore fruit. Philipp Degen’s strong angled run to the edge of the box produced a pass for Yossi Benayoun, who curled a shot narrowly wide.

Mills was booked for a foul on Benayoun before Liverpool grabbed a fortunate lead when Gerrard’s angled shot clipped Bertrand and deceived Adam Federici at the near post.

Liverpool’s troubles worsened when Gerrard failed to appear after the break, Ryan Babel coming on to join Ngog up front. The Liverpool skipper was believed to have suffered a hamstring strain.

With both talismen off the pitch and injured, it was left to Liverpool’s supporting cast to get through this tie.

Degen was booked for diving by referee Phil Dowd, having fallen in the box but without a hint of an appeal.

Liverpool’s response to their adversity was surprisingly positive, and they pinned Reading back, with the visitors bringing on midfielder Brian Howard for Kalifa Cisse on the hour.

Next on for Reading was Jimmy Kebe for Rasiak five minutes later – and someone they were still ahead after 80 minutes when McAnuff ran 60-yards right through Liverpool’s defence before sidefooting wide from 12 yards with only Cavalieri to beat.

Reading continued to press for an equaliser, and Church sent a free-header over the bar from 10 yards with five minutes left.

But Reading got their reward when Benayoun was adjudged to have clipped Long’s heels, and Sigurdsson stepped up to fire home the penalty which took the tie into extra-time.

Emiliano Insua’s run created a chance for Babel to force Federici into a low save, but it was still Reading looking the more confident.

And they stunned the Kop by taking the lead after 100 minutes. Brynjar Gunnarsson pushed the ball between Insua’s legs on the right and crossed for Long to head home from close range.

Liverpool tried to respond, but even when Benayoun was clear, he could only manage a weak shot that Federici saved with his legs.

The second period of extra-time saw Liverpool struggle desperately to salvage a late equaliser, but their nervous play was riddled with mistakes and terrible passing.

Jamie Carragher, Babel and Ngog all had shots which failed to trouble Federici, and Reading held out for a deserved victory.

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