The Merseyside outfit toiled in front of goal against a Royals side reluctant to leave their half but were let off by the 17-year-old's well-taken first-half goal
Raheem Sterling struck the solitary goal, finishing well into the corner after a chipped through ball from Luis Suarez - who was at his wasteful best as the Reds failed to carve out a bigger lead.
The hosts made just one change following their disappointing 0-0 draw with Stoke last time out, as goalkeeper Pepe Reina – injured on international duty with Spain – dropped out for Brad Jones. Royals boss Brian McDermott, meanwhile, swapped Jay Tabb and Noel Hunt for Mikele Leigertwood and Danny Guthhrie respectively, after his side threw away a 2-0 lead to draw with Swansea in their last outing.
Keen to atone for their limp showing against the Potters, Liverpool began the game brightly, with Nuri Sahin flagged narrowly offside after latching onto a lofted ball in the box with just minutes on the clock.
Reading were dealt an early blow as Jem Karacan was forced to leave the field following a cruching 50-50 challenge with Steven Gerrard, with Gareth McCleary sent on as his replacement. And things almost immediately got worse for the visitors, as Sahin shot inches over from a Sterling pull back in the box.
The young winger was unwisely being given the freedom of Anfield by the Royals and had not always used it effectively, but more than made up for that with 29 minutes on the clock. An intelligent first-time pass from Suarez let Sterling free and, after taking one touch, he fired beyond Alex McCarthy to put the Reds in front.
The hosts continued to dominate the ball in the Reading half from that point, leading to a bizarre moment 40 minutes in which brought perhaps the loudest cheer from the Anfield crowd all season. Suarez jinked in front of the back four to draw a foul, prompting the referee to award a free-kick which was welcomed rapturously by all four corners of the ground in recognition of the perceived injustices the Uruguayan has been dealt this term.
In truth, the crowd had little else to cheer for the remainder for the first period, as matters came to a close with Liverpool one ahead.
It took just five minutes of the second half for Liverpool to go close again, as Suarez saw his shot across McCarthy well saved, but the Royals almost got themselves on terms after breaking with speed after that effort. McCleary beat the hosts’ offside trap with ease but Jones was more than equal to his tentative attempt at the near post.
That miss prompted Liverpool into attacking with more abandon and Suarez should have done better than striking Sterling’s cross over, following a delightful through ball from Sahin to start the attack.
Brendan Rodgers’ side went close twice in quick succession moments later with a McCarthy save from Gerrard’s shot and Shelvey’s poor touch denying them a two-goal cushion. And the typically profligate Suarez also contrived to keep the scores level with two horrendous misses in a matter of seconds at the Kop end.
But the hosts were let off for those misses, as the Royals failed to conjure an attack of real note with time running out.