Liverpool 2 Reading 0

Liverpool put together a solid performance which condemned an over-cautious Reading to a fourth consecutive defeat.

For all the debate about the merits of Rafa Benitez's rotation policy, it was the Scouse heart of the team which inspired the Reds to a comfortable win. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher pulled the strings in midfield and defence to bring back the air of invincibility that has deserted Anfield often in recent times.

This was Liverpool's fourth straight win and was in part down to Dirk Kuyt's sharpness. Liverpool's strikers have seldom time to settle due to the chop and change nature of the Anfield squad, but Kuyt's two goals should put him top of the Red's strikeforce pecking order.

The home defence also calmed any nerves by avoiding the usual jittery end which has often featured near the end of matches.

The Reds started with a purpose that had deserted the side at the outset of this season with Captain Steven Gerrard forcefully marshalling the troops and it only took a quarter of an hour for the home team's positive start to make a difference.

It was midfield maestro Gerrard who created the opening, finding space on the edge of the penalty area to chip a delightful ball over the 5 man Reading defence. It was met by Crouch, who leapt above his marker Ibrahima Sonko to nod the ball across goal to the unmarked Kuyt who lashed the ball home.

Liverpool continued to press, with another Gerrard ball palmed wide by Royal's stopper Marcus Hahnemann after it slid through unchallenged.

The visitors stuck at their task despite the early setback, Glen Little and Steve Sidwell combining well in midfield, but stout collective defending meant the home side looked dangerous on the counter-attack.

Gerrard could have extended the lead after turning Sodje inside out in the left channel on 28 minutes but his curling effort passed over wide of the post.

The Anfield defence looked to have gained its swagger back, with stalwart Carragher even coming forward to blast an effort over the bar from 30 yds. Defensive partner Hyypia had an attempt of his own as Liverpool turned the screw in the second half, but again could not control his height.

The Royal had few chances, but the 5-4-1 formation meant Doyle and Hunt were often crowded out by Liverpool bodies.

The game lulled as Liverpool searched for the second goal, but despite extensive possession and territory seemed to be struggling.

Gerrard flashed a header inches past the right post of Hahnemann from Pennant's corner after 68 minutes and Benitez threw on Mark Gonzalez for the last twenty minutes in place of Dutchman Zenden to try and bring fruit from the home team's frequent counter attacks.

Reading thought they had a goal when sub Andre Bikey bundled the ball home in a goalmouth scramble, but referee Rennie spotted a foul on keeper Jose Reina.

The home team had the perfect response to the away side's search for a draw.

Pennant arched a corner over from the left side which was met by a towering Crouch header goalwards. Hahnemann could not hold on to the ball and it was ex-Feyenoord striker Kuyt who was once again on hand to slot it home in front of the Kop.