By Scott Taylor
Liverpool U21s are still searching for their first win of the 2015/16 season after a 2-1 defeat to Reading at the Madjeski Stadium on Monday evening. Michael Beale’s side have lost 1-0 to Chelsea and drew 3-3 to Everton before yesterday’s defeat. Despite having Joao Teixeira and Taigo Ilori in the side, the young Reds are still without a win this season.
Despite the scoreline, Liverpool were unlucky not to come away with any points. Reading goalkeeper Stuart Moore produced a man-of-the-match display to help his side achieve victory. The Royals stated brightly and netted two goals in the first half to lead 2-0 at half-time. Andrija Novakovich scored the hosts’ opener after 30 minutes, whilst summer signing Rowan Liburd doubled Reading’s lead shortly after with his third goal since his move from Billericay Town. Liverpool did create changes throughout the half, but Moore was determined to keep them out. A rare error from the Reading shot-stopper in the 88th minute gifted Liverpool a route back into the game, but they couldn’t quite get the decisive goal to earn them a deserved point. The young Reds have two great chances in injury time, but Moore pulled off two fantastic saves to win it for his side.
The first real chance of the game came in the 20th minute when Conor Shaughnessy tested Andy Firth, with the Liverpool goalkeeper having to save it at the second attempt. However, Liverpool responded with two chances of their own. Moore did well to save Harry Wilson’s close range effort before Sergi Canos’ header looped onto the roof of the net. Ryan Kent went even closer shortly after, as his free-kick was well saved by Moore. From that move, the hosts took the lead. Shaughnessy and Liburd both linked up well and fed Novakovich, who calmly slotted past Firth, who was deputising in the absence of regular U21 goalkeeper Ryan Fulton. It was soon 2-0 when Pierce Sweeney’s knock-down from a corner found Liburd in the six yard box, who poked beyond the reach of Firth to double the Royals’ lead.
The end-to-end nature of the game continued in the second half. Kent went close on two occasions but firstly Moore denied him before a Reading defender flew himself in front of the ball to get to force a corner. Liverpool captain Cameron Brannagan somehow was kept out by Moore, who made a good reaction save to deny the midfielder from inside the penalty box. The goalkeeper then made stunning double save in injury time as Reading remain unbeaten this season.
After the game Michael Beale thought Liverpool deserved more than what his side got from the game, but held special praise for Moore and some of his Liverpool players. He told liverpoolfc.com: “We were dominant in the first half and it was harsh to find ourselves 2-0 down at the break. Brannagan and Alex O’Hanlon were excellent in midfield and Kent and Canos caused them a lot of problems. The Reading goalkeeper was fantastic and he is probably the reason why we didn’t take anything from the game.”
Liverpool U21s have a few weeks until their next game, when they face Middlesbrough on Sunday 13 September, but it is likely that a couple of friendlies may be arranged to help the players’ match fitness.
Liverpool XI: Firth; Whelan, Cleary, Ilori (Randall 70’), Maguire; O’Hanlon (Gomes 80’), Brannagan; Wilson, Teixeira (Dunn 70’), Kent; Canos.
Reading XI: Moore; Long, Griffin, Kuhl, Hyam; Sweeney, Stacey (Kelly 45’); Shaughnessy, Liburd (Cardwell 60’), Fosu (Owusu 76’); Novakovich.