Liverpool 2 Reading 0: Kuyt leaves light Reading high and dry

Dutch international pounces early and late as Gerrard powers Reds to fourth straight win
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The Independent Football

There is no need for panic yet, but Reading's illustrious start to their first season in the Premiership is beginning to unravel. This was their fourth successive League defeat and suddenly what is happening behind them is becoming as important as the teams in front.

Their manager Steve Coppell was in his best "crisis, what crisis?" form at Anfield last night. "We don't do runs," he said, choosing to ignore a sequence that also extends to a defeat in the League Cup. "We just look at the next game. We lost. We move on."

Yesterday they moved backwards thanks to two goals from Dirk Kuyt, but what was more worrying for those with Reading's interests at heart was a serious lack of ambition from the visitors. Their intention had been to nullify Liverpool's attack by sheer weight of numbers, but when that did not work there seemed to be no Plan B. "This year we were very conscious of just doing our thing early doors, playing our way no matter who the opposition was," Coppell said, explaining a deeply circumspect 5-4-1 formation.

"To a certain extent we have been found out a little bit in recent weeks and have been a bit open at the back. Today we were looking for a strong foundation. Liverpool have been formidable in recent weeks and we wanted to make it very tight and see what happened. But we needed a break. If we had got a goal it would have given us a little more belief."

Frankly any suggestion that Reading might spring a surprise on their first League visit to Anfield disappeared as soon as Liverpool took the lead after 14 minutes. It was not a vintage performance from the home team - there were too many errors - but spurred on by Steven Gerrard, who was restored to central midfield, they won with some comfort.

The visitors might have taken the lead but for Jamie Carragher's heel denying James Harper, however once Kuyt struck it was game over. It was a goal that was relatively simple, a knock-down by Peter Crouch and a tap-in from Kuyt, but the complexity lay in the clever, looping pass from Gerrard that caught Marcus Hahnemann in two minds. The Reading goalkeeper probably expected a shot from the Liverpool captain given his central position and when a cross arrived he was out of position.

With Plan A in tatters, Reading did not have the personnel to batter at the Anfield gates and the rest of the first half was largely home pressure. A cross from Gerrard skimmed off Ivar Ingimarsson and required an athletic save from Hahnemann to prevent it going in by the post and the keeper had to be alert again to block a long-range shot from Jermaine Pennant.

The cameo that summed up Liverpool's supremacy, however, came after 32 minutes when Jamie Carragher, who normally requires dynamite to shift him out of the back four, galloped forward to have a go at the shy. With a record of three goals in more than 400 appearances, it is almost superfluous to say he was high and wide.

Reading had to be more ambitious after the interval and they duly were, pushing their fullbacks forward and freeing Stephen Hunt of his defensive duties. They even had the ball in the net in the 70th minute when Ibrahima Sonko forced it over from six inches, but the referee Uriah Rennie had seen a push on Jose Reina and the goal was disallowed.

That would prove to be Reading's high-water mark because Liverpool got their second goal after 73 minutes. Pennant's corner was headed by Crouch, Carragher unsighted Hahnemann so that the ball bounced off the Reading goalkeeper and Kuyt hooked in.

That means Kuyt has taken his tally to five since his £9 million transfer from Feyenoord and it had his manager purring. "I've known about him for years," Rafael Benitez said. "He has always scored goals and works hard, creating space for team-mates. His partnership with Crouch is very good."

It is certainly promising and the only minus for Benitez yesterday was prising Gerrard back to the flank. It is a problem any manager would love. Particularly Coppell.