Rich Laverty takes a walk down memory lane to when the Royals upset the odds by handing Rafael Benitez’s men their first defeat of the 2007/08 season.
Nine years to the day, Steve Coppell’s Reading pulled off a rare upset against a Liverpool side – managed by Rafael Benitez – that were unbeaten in the league.
Indeed, Liverpool had won eight games and drawn six and it finally looked like they had a team capable of challenging Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
But it all started to unravel quite quickly on a cold, wintery night under the lights at the Madjeski Stadium. Benitez handed a first league start to 19-year-old defender Jack Hobbs (now of Nottingham Forest) and the centre-back had made his league debut a week earlier against Bolton.
But it was the rather more experienced Jamie Carragher who put Liverpool on the back foot, his foul on Brynjar Gunnarsson was adjudged to be inside the area by ref Andre Marriner when many could see it wasn’t.
Stephen Hunt put Reading ahead from the spot but their lead didn’t last long, in the form of his life it was captain Steven Gerrard who drew the reds level just 10 minutes later. Ibrahima Sonko then looked to have brought down Fernando Torres in the area but replays showed he got a touch on the ball before it all eventually went wrong for the visitors.
Despite their dominance which saw debutant Hobbs blaze over after being gifted a golden opportunity; two goals in seven minutes sealed the deal for Reading. First, Kevin Doyle got a toe on Nicky Shorey’s free-kick before a fine individual effort from Kevin Harper rounded off proceedings.
Despite a good start in the league that saw them go 14 games unbeaten, Liverpool’s starting XI housed Mohamed Sissoko, Andrey Voronin and there wasn’t much to turn to on the bench. Injury-prone Harry Kewell was introduced, as was Ryan Babel, and, rather questionably, it was Liverpool’s star players in Torres and Gerrard who were the fall guys.
Reading shut up shop with three subs within the final few minutes. Remember Leroy Lita, Andre Bikey and Kalifa Cisse? No? Well, they were all brought on to shut the game down and Coppell’s men did walk away with a vital three points. At least Benitez took it well…
“For me (Carragher’s foul) was clearly outside the area. Normally it would be a yellow card but it wasn’t because the ref wasn’t sure. I think it was clear Fernando Torres was fouled, but we can’t change the result – I won’t use that as an excuse.”
Benitez there, definitely not using Marriner’s decisions as an excuse for their defeat. Neither’s season would end well; Reading eventually went on a run of eight straight defeats and would be relegated on the final day despite a 4-0 win at Derby County – Fulham’s remarkable transition coming at the Royals’ cost.
Liverpool would lose just three more games all season, one the week after at home to Manchester United and Benitez’s side would also lose at Old Trafford later in the season. The Reds ended up fourth in the league and went out of the Champions League in a dramatic semi-final against Chelsea – now managed by Avram Grant – in a result that robbed everyone of a much anticipated United vs Liverpool final on the European stage.
Follow Rich on Twitter at @RichJLaverty