Rodgers' Liverpool too strong for Royals
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Royal connections: Brian McDermott, right, failed to get the better of former Reading boss Brendan Rodgers at Anfield on Saturday. Pic: Tony Knox.
Liverpool 1 - 0 Reading
RAHEEM Sterling's first Liverpool league goal condemned Reading FC to a narrow defeat at Anfield on Saturday.
The 17-year-old struck in the 28th minute of a largely one-sided Premier League encounter to secure a welcome three points for the Reds and leave Royals still searching for their first win.
It was also ex-Reading boss Brendan Rodgers' first league victory at Anfield and it was no more than the home side deserved after dominating the majority of the match and spurning a host of clear-cut opportunities.
Sterling and Luis Suarez tormented the Royals defence all afternoon and combined for the only goal of the game in the 29th minute.
Suarez's neat flick over the defence set Sterling away and he fired across Alex McCarthy to become Reds' second youngest scorer in the top flight after Michael Owen.
Had Suarez possessed the composure of Owen on the day, the result would have been beyond doubt.
Instead, the hosts endured a nervy finish after Reading's Garath McCleary and Jobi McAnuff were denied by stand-in goalkeeper Brad Jones.
The defeat leaves Royals languishing in the relegation zone with just three points from their opening seven matches.
And, just as at West Brom and against Tottenham Hotspur, boss Brian McDermott was left to rue another disappointing first-half performance.
"At half time we were in the game, but Anfield is not an easy place to go. In the second half we got on the ball and got on the front foot," he argued.
"We got up the pitch and played some decent football, created some chances and we were disappointed not to come away with a draw at least.
"If Noel Hunt was fit we would have set up at 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 with Noel on the left but I didn't have those options because he wasn't fit.
"The game was stretched, we had some excellent opportunities when we were one-on-one with the keeper. I thought we would get something, even in the 90th minute."
Last weekend's defeat leaves Reading one place off the bottom of the Premeir League table, with Fulham set to visit the Madejski Stadium this Saturday (3pm ko).
McDermott conceded: "I look at the way we train, and we work our socks off. We have been to some tough places this year and competed in this league.
"But you don't want to say well done to your team when you lose 1-0 because we're in the results business, we need performances like the second half. But all we do as a group is take the challenge on and look to Fulham on Saturday now."
With Danny Guthrie and Mikele Leigertwood replacing Jay Tabb and the injured Hunt, Royals returned to a 4-5-1 formation, spearheaded by Pavel Pogrebnyak.
But the Russian spent the opening period largely chasing shadows as Liverpool monopolised possession.
Neat interplay on the edge of the box between Suarez, Joe Allen and Glen Johnson served warning of what was to come while the lively Suso also got involved with a shot that was deflected wide.
Already on the ropes from Liverpool's relentless thrusts, Reading were dealt a further blow when Jem Karacan was forced off after smashing his foot against Steven Gerrard's in a 50-50 challenge.
And after Karacan's international team-mate Nuri Sahin spurned two clear chances, Sterling underlined his reputation with a composed finish across McCarthy.
It was no more than Liverpool deserved and Suarez nearly doubled their lead when he shot narrowly wide after being gifted the ball by Guthrie.
Mikele Leigertwod was far more wayward with Reading's first effort on goal in the 41st minute and Liverpool ended the half on top as Johnson forced a save from McCarthy.
Royals might have expected a boost when Suarez limped off at half time following a Kaspars Gorkss tackle.
But the Uruguayan, who only returned from international duty late on Thursday, recovered and was immediately involved as Liverpool pused for a second.
His pass found Sterling in the box, but this time the youngster could not beat McCarthy.
McCleary was equally wasteful at the other end with Royals' best chance of the match, failing to beat Jones after he was played in by Guthrie.
The rare opening appeared to galvanise the visitors and McAnuff forced Jones into another stop after some neat trickery.
Liverpool, though, should have put the game to bed with Suarez blazing over from Sterling's cutback before Jonjo Shelvey's first touch let him down with only McCarthy to beat.
Gerrard and Johnson were next to test Reading's goalkeeper as the hosts piled on the pressure.
But with the play becoming stretched, and the home fans becoming more frustrated with each wasted opportunity, Reading began to threaten.
Jimmy Kebe saw a probing cross deflected behind while McCleary scuffed his shot from inside the area.
However, Liverpool hit back with replacement Jose Enrique creating two late chances for Suarez from 12 yards out. But the Uruguayan blazed over the bar then hit the advertising boards.
Fortunately for Suarez, his prolificacy went unpunished as McCleary's late cross failed to find a Reading head and the hosts saw out the victory.
Liverpool: Jones, Wisdom, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Sahin (Shelvey 63), Gerrard, Allen, Sterling (Henderson 85), Suso (Enrique 75), Suarez. Subs not used: Gulacsi, Downing, Assaidi, Carragher.
Reading: McCarthy; Cummings, Shorey, Gorkss, Mariappa; Karacan (McCleary 25), Leigertwood, Kebe, McAnuff (c); Guthrie (Roberts 81); Pogrebnyak (Le Fondre 74). Subs not used: Taylor, Gunter, Pearce, Robson-Kanu.
Referee: Roger East (Wiltshire).