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Sterling's value on rise after red-hot strike sinks Royals

LIVERPOOL have not yet suggested a date for the start of the reconstruction of Anfield, but nobody told Raheem Sterling.

The 17-year-old winger got to work on the lengthy process of restoring the stadium's aura, sprinkling his stardust with a zesty performance and his first competitive goal.

In finding the winner in a 1-0 victory, he became second only to Michael Owen in the Liverpool kindergarten goalscorer's chart, and ensured Reading joined the esteemed company of Everton and Chelsea as the only Premier League visitors not to collect a point in this arena during 2012.

There are two restoration projects now under way at Anfield. Brendan Rodgers' plans for Liverpool are much clearer than those entrusted with giving the stadium a makeover, although both facelifts will be time-consuming.



Obsessing

As a club, Liverpool still talk too much about the past, but in Rodgers at least they have someone who is obsessing about the future. Sterling has now become an emblem of what might be.

Publicly, Rodgers takes a paternal tone with Sterling. Privately, as the somewhat undermining behind-the-scenes documentary currently on air keeps showing us, there is some tough love going on to keep the youngster advancing at pace in a straight line.

"It doesn't matter what industry you're in, nobody in this world responds to being beaten with a stick. I will offer the players the carrot," Rodgers said.

"Raheem likes to hear it direct and I deal with him the best way I can to make him perform to the level. He has been a revelation. His mentality is really strong. Nothing fazes him and he doesn't waste his time doing stupid things.

"He has still a long way to go. We want him to be a legend here for the next 10 years and not to get carried away with the adulation so that by the time he is 21 everyone wants him out.

"We want him to maintain his hunger and then he can become a top player."



Apprehensive

For all the aspirational talk, there has not been enough detail to match the statements of intent.

The polishing of Anfield's status must first begin on the pitch. Liverpool are clearly capable of more than their current position suggests.

Apart from the result, this was more of the same. Good in parts, wasteful in others and excessively apprehensive in the closing stages.

The game's outstanding performances - teenage full-back Andre Wisdom made it a trio - combined for the only goal. Wisdom's header, Suárez's pass and Sterling's finish secured the points in the 29th minute, although the margin should have been extended.

Sterling was the matchwinner, but Suárez remains the top man.

The focus on the striker's willingness to acquaint himself with the Anfield turf should not disguise the fact that it often needs a stud on his ankle before referees accept they may have to blow their whistle.


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