Liverpool stumbled to a disappointing draw at the Madjeski Stadium against Championship side Reading.
After two consecutive Premiership victories, the reds were hoping to continue their good form, but despite a strong line up failed to impress in a tie that will now be decided in a replay at Anfield in 10 days time.
Injury to Glen Johnson forced a change at right back, with Stephen Darby coming in to the frame. Steven Gerrard moved back to partner Lucas Leiva, and David N'gog's involvement meant Liverpool switched to a 4-4-2 formation.
Still missing Mascherano, the reds failed to get a foothold in the game. And in the 24th minute Liverpool were undone by a set-piece. Again. The ball was sent in deep and headed back from the line, allowing Simon Church the opportunity to bundle the ball over the line.
The reds stepped up their momentum and a tame shot from Steven Gerrard crept in to the corner of the Reading goal with 10 minutes remaining of the second half. The goal owed more to Dirk Kuyt's excellent run across the ball, which distracted the keeper.
If Liverpool fans were expecting a second half improvement then they would be sorely disappointed. The display was insipid.
Dirk Kuyt, Emiliano Insua and Fabio Aurelio all put in unacceptable performances but perhaps the worst was in fact the club captain. Capable of far more than he has shown in recent weeks his goal failed to hide another lack-lustre and below par display.
With Mascherano and Lucas in midfield the reds do at least look to have some solidity in central midfield, but as well as Lucas played - Gerrard failed to support the young Brazilian. Torres and N'gog saw little service either from the captain or from Kuyt and Aurelio on the wings.
The change to 4-5-1 when Aquilani came on for N'gog failed to help matters and it was Reading who ended up pushing for the winner.
Liverpool clung on for the replay. The reds have been notable for sloppy starts to cup competitions they have gone on to win - we can only hope this is a similar campaign.
Man of the Match: Lucas Leiva