Tactical Analysis: Liverpool vs. Reading, 1-0

Tactical Analysis: Liverpool vs. Reading, 1-0

Liverpool registered their first home win of the season at the fifth attempt, defeating Reading 1-0. The goal came in the 29th minute from 17-year-old Raheem Sterling. Whilst the score line seemed close, Liverpool had the majority of possession (56.8% vs. Reading’s 43.2%) and created four times as many chances as Reading (20 to 5). It was another case of Liverpool failing to score when they dominated a team, which might have allowed the opposition back into the match.

Liverpool’s First Half Chances

Straight from the beginning of the match, Liverpool directed their attacks down the left hand side. Reading’s right back Shaun Cummings had a tough night coming up against Sterling and Glen Johnson and didn’t rise to the task, with the majority of Liverpool’s best chance coming down his side.

Liverpool’s first chance occurred when Luis Suarez and Sterling combined, but the pass from Suarez was too far behind Sterling which allowed the Reading defenders to recover in time.

Liverpool’s next great chance fell to Nuri Şahin, whose shot went flying over the bar from a Sterling cut back. The move started when Joe Allen passed into the feet of Suarez, who had dropped off (taking Mariabba with him). Suarez’s attempted pass to Şahin was intercepted by McAnuff, but his heavy touch allowed Gerrard to nick in.

Phase one

 Gerrard’s touch allowed Şahin to play a beautiful volleyed pass into the path of Sterling. Liverpool then broke forward, and Sterling’s cut back found Şahin, but he couldn’t finish.

Phase two

Midway through the first half, Raheem Sterling scored his first senior goal to give Liverpool the lead.

From McCarthy’s goal kick, the second ball fell to Leigertwood, but his header allowed Wisdom to step in and head the ball forward. From here, Suarez had again dropped off and had time to turn and measure a pass towards the run of Sterling, who had ran in-between his marker and the central defender. Sterling then took the ball on an angle before finishing across the face of McCarthy.

Sterling Goal

Reading’s Best First Half Chance

After Liverpool took the lead, Reading had two half chances to equalise before half time – one coming from a long range shot and the other from a well worked set piece.

Leigertwood was given space to shoot after Gerrard was caught ball watching, but Liverpool escaped. Not long later, Reading nearly executed a training ground move, but Liverpool was able to scramble the ball clear.

Reading’s Free Kick

With four players over the ball, the Liverpool wall was unclear if Kebe or Shorey was going to take a shot. Kebe lined up to shoot but ran over the ball as Guthrie rolled it to McAnuff. Shorey then, when being charged down by Şahin, passed into the path of Kebe. As Sterling looked to step across to cover Kebe, Leigertwood ran across and block him off (albeit illegally, but it wasn’t spotted by the referee). This allowed Kebe to receive the ball, but Liverpool eventually got men around the ball and could clear.

If the pass by Shorey was a touch firmer, then Kebe may have had a better chance to cross; although there was no front post runner looking to get on the end of the cross had it occurred.

Next Page: Second Half Analysis…

Second Half

Going into the second half with only a one goal lead, Liverpool allowed Reading to have a few chances on the break – with the best chance falling to substitute Garath McCleary. The game became a bit end-to-end, but neither side could score.

Jose Enrique’s Introduction

As the half continued, Sterling and Suso became less effective, and eventually Jose Enrique was brought on for Suso, with Sterling switching to the right.

This change reinvigorated Liverpool’s attacking play, with Enrique combining well with Johnson and Suarez to create two chances within two minutes for Liverpool.

In the first half, Liverpool targeted Reading’s right back by having Sterling look to run in behind and catch him out of position. After the Enrique substitution this changed, with Johnson instead running directly at Cummings, and Enrique receiving the ball in wide positions to cross or cut back for Suarez.

Both of the chances created in this way came as a result of Enrique underlapping in front of Johnson, meaning Cummings was left in two minds.

Example One

Here, as the ball came to Johnson, he ran directly at Cummings, with Enrique underlapping and moving wide. With a midfielder retreating to cover, Cummings tried to cut down the option of Johnson to come inside onto his right, but this allowed Enrique too much space. Johnson played a ball in front of Enrique, who cut the ball back to Suarez first time. Suarez had dropped off the retreating defenders, but as the ball bounced just before he shot he couldn’t keep it down.

Less than two minutes later an almost identical scenario occurred, with the same end result – a missed Suarez chance.

Example Two (1)

Leigertwood tried to pass to Kebe, but Johnson intercepted the pass and again ran towards Cummings. Identical to the previous situation, Enrique underlapped, leaving Cummings with an option to track the runner or prevent Johnson from coming inside.

Example Two (2)

He again allowed Enrique too much space and the ball was played to the left. Enrique took a touch and moved inside before passing to Suarez, who missed another chance.

With a one goal lead, Liverpool held strong and saw the game out.


It was another game where Liverpool didn’t convert their chances, but the one goal was enough to see off a Reading side which lacked imagination. Reading didn’t put enough pressure on Liverpool, who have historically become shaky in situations such as this, and their best chances were half chances from free kicks or direct counter attacks.

With their first home win of the campaign, Liverpool move to 11th on the table; Reading are now second from bottom on three points, with a game in hand.