Liverpool created a staggering amount of chances, but Reading managed to keep the game scoreless through a fantastic breakout performance by their goalkeeper, Alex McCarthy.
Liverpool dominated every metric of this match. It’s a wonder that Reading managed to keep them out, but then again, it’s also a wonder that no one in a Liverpool jersey managed to put a chance away.
The Reds had 19 chances at goal, the most of any team this weekend. They also possessed 60% of the ball, passed at a 78% completion rate, and had 11 shots on target. Looking at these statistics, it’s a wonder that they didn’t manage to pull a win out of this game.
Tactically, Reading were fairly simple. Pogrebnyak started ahead of Adam Le Fondre, perhaps due to his size and willingness to track back when out of possession. Indeed, Pogrebnyak was frequently a defensive presence in Reading’s own box.
When in possession, Reading typically tried to fire passes out wide and counter through pace. The wasted little time in transition, and clearly favored the notion of catching Liverpool’s high defensive line on the break. They attempted 22 crosses, only completing 2.
When contrasted to Liverpool’s 5 attempted crosses, the statistical differences mirror the differing tactical approaches of each side. Liverpool played a far more intricate passing game, as they usually attempt to do.
For Liverpool, Suarez reprised his natural position at the center of attack. When Sturridge is included, sometimes the Uruguayan is pushed wide onto the right flank, but in this match it was Sturridge that played the width. That being said, Coutinho, Suarez, and Sturridge play as a very dynamic attacking three. Each is allowed a significant degree of roaming, and each is expected to cover for each other’s creative movement.
Sturridge the Creator
Daniel Sturridge created 6 chances, all of which were in open play over the course of this match. This was the highest tally of chances created of any player in the Premier League this weekend. For a player consistently billed as selfish, this is contradictory to what many people may believe.
A contributing aspect of this creativity is Sturridge’s composure on the ball. He seldom appears rushed on the ball. Even in the penalty area, Sturridge has a tendency to pause on the ball and pick out a pass rather than rush to find a chance that wasn’t existent. A times this slowed Liverpool’s attack too much, but more often than not it allowed midfielders the chance to join the attack and provide additional options.
Sturridge passed with an admirable 80% completion rate. More often than not he passed from advanced positions, as evidenced by his passing breakdown: only 23% of his passes were forward (the lowest of any Liverpool player) and 33% were backward. 5 of the 6 chances he created were from reverse passes in the attacking half.
He also had 5 penalty area entries with his passing, only one behind Coutinho’s highest tally of 6.
Super Alex McCarthy
It’s impossible to discuss this match without giving a tip of the hat to Alex McCarthy. This was only his 8th appearance of the season, and the 23-year-old performed like a seasoned veteran. McCarthy was formerly favored as Reading’s starting keeper, starting the majority of their matches in October. However, Federici has started between the sticks more often than not of late, and this match marked McCarthy’s first start since November.
In total, McCarthy made 10 saves.
As illustrated by this graph, 6 of these saves were from inside the penalty area. It’s incredible that not a single one of these shots made their way past McCarthy.
In the end however, it’s equally incredible that with 19 opportunities at goal, Liverpool did not manage to place the ball in an area out of McCarthy’s reach.
Liverpool had one of their greatest creative matches of the season. But a lack of placement in their shooting coupled with a stellar performance from Alex McCarthy allowed Reading to walk home with a point.
If they maintain this form, it’s hard to imagine Liverpool not creating problems for Chelsea next weekend at Anfield. Their creativity was fantastic, it was only a lack of finishing touches that kept this game from becoming a route.
On the other side of the coin, Reading will have a tough away match against Norwich. With both sides needing points, it’s going to be a hotly contested match. While they stand very little chance of surviving at this point, Reading will surely be looking for 3 points.