Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Keeper heroics thwart Liverpool

Alex McCarthy produced a string of fine saves to ensure Reading earned a draw with Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers endured a highly frustrating return to Reading as a remarkable performance from keeper Alex McCarthy saw Liverpool held to a goalless draw.

Time and again McCarthy came to the Royals' rescue by producing a succession of world-class saves to deny Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge.

The academy product only started the match after Adam Federici was ruled out with an ankle problem. Liverpool dominated most of the Barclays Premier League clash at the Madejski Stadium and could have finished clear winners but for McCarthy's brilliance.

A minute's silence was immaculately observed before the match in memory of the 96 victims of Hillsborough, with the disaster's 24th anniversary falling on Monday.

Liverpool made one change to the side that drew with West Ham, replacing Stewart Downing with Sturridge. They would have taken the lead but for a brilliant clearance from right-back Chris Gunter, who scooped Suarez's lofted shot off the goalline.

Shortly after rescuing his side with his goalline heroics, Gunter then blundered by passing straight to Sturridge who could scarcely believe his luck as he unleashed Suarez onto the Royals' goal. But once more McCarthy reacted brilliantly to stop the shot before Gerrard's follow up was deflected over the target.

Jamie Carragher was forced to intervene in the nick of time as Reading attacked, but the respite was only brief as Liverpool countered and Coutinho should have done much better with a great chance. The reflexes of McCarthy were all that was keeping the Reds at bay and he produced another magnificent save to deny Sturridge from close range.

Liverpool had the ball in the net three minutes into the second half, but the flag went up for offside against Coutinho as he dabbed Gerrard's pass home. Reading could have taken the lead in the 67th minute when Pavel Pogrebnyak played in Noel Hunt only for Pepe Reina to throw his body in the way.

In the 65th minute Reading would have taken the lead had Jobi McAnuff struck the ball with greater force from 10 yards out, with the weakness of the shot allowing Reina to parry it clear.

Suarez and Downing then went close, and then it was Gerrard's turn to be denied by the fingertips of McCarthy. McCarthy then plucked a shot from Suarez from the air and palmed another attempt from the Liverpool forward to safety, while Sturridge blazed high over.

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