**Updated** Wasn't able to post anything right after the match due to a trip to the ER, back with some admittedly negative and somewhat incoherent thoughts.
--Looking at the starting eleven, you couldn't help but feel a tinge of optimism. Especially with the introduction of Maxi Rodriguez (who had to be impressed), things were looking good.
--Surprising to see Anfield less than full...can't remember another time in the last few years, other than reserve or youth cup games, that I've seen that many empty seats. Still, after two hours they were able to create quite a bit of "OOOO" sounding noises.
--Fernando Torres got absolutely crushed by Matthew Mills. It wasn't the incident that saw him pick up a knock, but it wouldn't have been surprising. That turn near the touchline seems to have done in his knee...as with Gerrard and Benayoun, we'll know more tomorrow.
--Gerrard's goal was, as highlighted during halftime on Setanta, undoubtedly the result of some very good fortune. Liverpool were lackluster and looked like conceding for most of the half, and after about twelve deflections they were up 1-0.
--For as feeble as Liverpool looked in the first half, they actually were decent in the second half. It might have been a case of Reading running themselves into the ground, but Liverpool had the lion's share of possession. As has been the case far too often, however, they couldn't kill it off and were punished in dramatic fashion.
--No shame for me in admitting that Jobi McAnuff's slicing run was a thing of beauty--I found myself wishing that he had scored. I eventually came to, but as David Fairclough mentioned in the commentary, it was a move that you couldn't help but marvel at. Tough luck for the youngster not to have finished.
--Benayoun's foul that led to the penalty was a Lucas special--leg jutting out, poorly timed and never a question. It was a cool take from Sigurdsson, and almost surreal after Cavalieri had only minutes earlier pushed away a curling effort that looked to be Reading's last. Clearly it wasn't.
--Liverpool were never going to score in extra time. You could almost feel the inevitable winner coming from Reading, who played with a desire and energy that Liverpool could not match. Great ball in and a fine header from Shane Long.
--Too bad for Alberto Aquilani that Yossi Benayoun scuffed his shot, the Italian delivered a fine ball over the top. Benayoun choked the shot and sent it straight at Federici. It was a tough night on the whole for Aquilani, who looked out of sorts at times and had more than a few difficulties. It's a tall order for him to deliver immediately, but he's doing his damndest. He again showed flashes of brilliance, and I again ask for patience.
--For all the good work he's done lately, David Ngog was atrocious tonight. Scuffed a few chances and didn't look like he belonged. Conversely, I was very impressed with the forward movement of Phillipp Degen, who despite being linked with a move to Germany, busted his ass while he was out there and was one of a few who looked fully committed.
--The young Liverpool fan that was shown crying at the end of the match was, unfortunately, an appropriate way to end things. You couldn't help but be disappointed today. The result is one thing, the manner in which the team went about earning the result is entirely another. I suppose the apologists will say, "Look, this is what happens when you get no support from the owners. It's the Yanks' fault. How can you expect Rafa to win with this?" I guess I refuse to believe that there is causation between boardroom drama and gutless performances, and it takes responsibility away from the players and manager. Because really, that's what this was, and it isn't the first time this season we've seen it. With a nearly full-strength side, with a new transfer in the stands, without Tom Hicks Jr. on the board, Liverpool's performance betrayed all the comments in the run-up about the "importance" of the FA Cup. Little about their display indicated that this match was more than an exhibition, and the same could be said of the atmosphere.
There's not much more to say, other than it's a rough time for supporters. The club will get through it, but it might look vastly different on the other side. Something definitely needs changing. Rafa Benitez is, if you believe every website and paper around, fighting for his job. Maybe he should be, maybe he shouldn't. But somebody at Liverpool needs to be fighting for something, because it's clear now that there has been little fight in the club this season.
Feel free to continue commiserating.