Brendan Rodgers in his time as Liverpool manager has developed a reputation for making grand statements, yet the one he delivered after this game seemed appropriate. Asked if he felt Alex McCarthy's display for Reading was the best he had seen by a goalkeeper, Rodgers was in no doubt. "I can't remember being at a game where a goalkeeper has performed like that, either as a manager, coach or spectator," he said. "He was brilliant."

McCarthy's showing did not surprise Rodgers. He was the Reading manager during a six-month spell that ended in December 2009 when the player was making his name in the club's academy. Rodgers sent McCarthy on loan to Yeovil but knew he would return to stake a claim for a place in the first team.

His opportunity came earlier this season when he was chosen ahead of Adam Federici by Brian McDermott for the visit of Tottenham. Reading lost 3-1 but McCarthy became the team's No1 until a shoulder injury picked up in early November checked his momentum.

This was his first appearance since then, having undergone an operation, and it ended with the former England Under-21 international having made 10 saves.

"It was nice to come back with a bang," he said. "This was the first injury that's kept me out for more than a couple of weeks so it's disappointing being in the treatment room. But I'm now where I want to be."

It appeared McCarthy's standout save was the one from Luis Suárez's point-blank shot late on that he clutched to his chest. Yet the player chose his diving parry of Steven Gerrard's long-range drive that arrived moments earlier. "It came from in front of Sean Morrison so I saw it late," he said. "Overall, this is the best performance I've had."

McCarthy, who is 6ft 4ins tall and "modelled my game on Petr Cech", was the only Reading player to emerge from the game with credit. His outfield colleagues displayed the tentativeness of a side sat at the foot of the Premier League. The hosts, who are 10 points from safetywith five matches to play, were overwhelmed by a Liverpool team whose attacking trio of Phillippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Suárez moved with breathtaking fluidity and pace. In total, Liverpool had 23 shots on goal compared with Reading's five.

There was frustration, then, for the visitors on a day when the 96 Liverpool supporters who died at the Hillsborough disaster, the 24th anniversary of which is on Monday, had been remembered before the kick-off with a minute's silence. For Rodgers, however, positives could be taken from a result that leaves his side in seventh place five points behind Everton in sixth. "Everyone can see we've improved," he said. "We've got top players and once we bring in more quality we'll move up to to the next level."

Man of the match Alex McCarthy (Reading)