Liverpool Thwarted by Alex McCarthy’s Inspired Goalkeeping, Battle Reading to Scoreless Draw

Philippe Coutinho and Alex McCarthyLiverpool was left to rue missed chances as it was held to a goalless draw by Reading at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.

The Reds carved out a number of chances, with Chris Gunter heading a goal-bound Luis Suarez lob off the line in the first half and Philippe Coutinho having an effort ruled out for offside after the break.

Meanwhile, Pepe Reina was required to produce a brilliant close-range block to deny Noel Hunt from six yards before Suarez clipped a free-kick against the base of the post.

Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy was in inspired form throughout and ensured the teams would be forced to settle for a point apiece as he produced two stunning late saves to frustrate Steven Gerrard and then Suarez.

Prior to kick-off, Reading paid an emotional tribute to the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough ahead of Monday’s 24th anniversary of the disaster with a minute’s silence.

Brendan Rodgers made one change to the team that started last weekend’s goalless draw with West Ham — Daniel Sturridge coming in for Stewart Downing, who dropped down to the bench.

It was a patient opening from the visitors, who dominated the early possession — though a first chance on goal did not arrive until the 14th minute.

Flowing football saw Coutinho dissect the Reading defense with a wonderful pass that sent Suarez through on goal. The Uruguayan’s dink over McCarthy was executed perfectly, but Gunter got back on the goal-line to head clear.

Liverpool continued to press and Suarez then released Sturridge into space in the box. The striker delayed his effort before eventually being thwarted by a save from McCarthy. The ball broke for Coutinho, whose low curler was tipped around the base of the post by the Royals ‘keeper.

From the resulting corner, Jamie Carragher rose highest to head narrowly over.

The chances continued to come for the Reds and Sturridge freed Suarez in the area, but his blast was repelled by McCarthy before Gerrard volleyed the rebound at the legs of Jem Karacan.

Coutinho was next to try his luck as the ball broke for him after Sturridge’s surge into the box had been halted, but the Brazilian skewed high and wide when well-positioned.

McCarthy was keeping his side in the contest and on the stroke of half-time, the custodian produced another fine block — this time denying Sturridge at point-blank range following a corner.¬†Daniel Agger¬†then nodded inches the wrong side of the post as the teams went into the break level.

Liverpool did finally have the ball in the back of the net moments after the re-start when Coutinho audaciously flicked home a Gerrard center — but he was deemed to have been in an offside position by the referee’s assistant.

With the second half following a near-identical pattern to the first, Rodgers opted to introduce Downing into the action in the 56th minute with the winger replacing Jordan Henderson.

Coutinho then skimmed wide of the far post with a side-footer from Sturridge’s cut back, but Liverpool had Reina to thank for preventing Reading from taking the lead when the Spaniard produced a wonderful close-range block to thwart Hunt from Pavel Pogrebnyak‘s center.

The hosts were enjoying their best spell of the game and the Reds’ custodian had to thrust out his right hand to tip Jobi McAnuff‘s 12-yard drive over the bar soon after.

Back came Liverpool and Suarez guided a free-kick from range around the Reading wall and clipped the outside of the post before Downing drilled off target.

As time ticked away, McCarthy continue to frustrate the Reds, pulling off superb saves from efforts by Gerrard and then Suarez before Sturridge spurned a gilt-edged chance at the close as Reading claimed a share of the spoils.

Liverpoolfc.com journalists’ man of the match: Philippe Coutinho

Photo via Liverpoolfc.com

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