MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

3 December 2003: LEAGUE CUP ROUND 4
Reading: -
Hasselbaink (57 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 24,107

LEAGUE CUP 2003/2004
R1 Boston (A) W: 3-1
R2 Oxford (A) W: 3-1
R3 Huddersfield (H) W: 1-0
R4 Chelsea (H) L: 0-1
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Mackie, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Savage, Sidwell, Watson, Salako (Tyson 72), Hughes (Murray 59), Forster. Subs not used: Young, Newman, Harper.
Sullivan, Johnson, Desailly, Terry, Babayaro, Lampard, Cole (Makelele 45), Geremi, Gronkjaer (Mutu 76), Hasselbaink (Stanic 70), Crespo. Subs not used: Ambrosio, Gallas.
Reading: Watson
Makelele, Hasselbaink.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent)

There was certainly no shame in Reading's defeat tonight as they dipped out of the Carling League cup by just a single goal to a Chelsea team full of multi-million pound International players. Chelsea came to the Madejski as firm favourites to sweep Reading aside by several goals and immediately showed they meant business by fielding a word class team full of household names, despite making several changes from the team that defeated last season's Premiership champions at the weekend. Reading on the other hand put out the same side that had been victorious in the league at the weekend and did amazingly well to compete at the same level as one of the best sides in the world - and hold them for 57 minutes. In front of a sold out Madejski Stadium, The Royals put on an entertaining show as they did their best to progress to the next round - but it was always an impossible task against such opposition. In truth we could have lost by a whole load more and have Marcus Hahnemann to thank for an excellent performance that kept the score down, however on the other end we created a few chances of our own and came close to ending Chelsea's run of clean sheets that now stretches back over seven full games.

Right from the start it was clear there was an amazing amount of individual skill packed into the Chelsea side and early on it was impossible not to think about how many we'd lose by, not if we'd lose. There was immediate danger from Chelsea as they showed they'd come to win the game decisively with Hahnemann called into action early on. It was a sign of things to come as Chelsea kept Marcus occupied throughout the night with the keeper showing a clear return to form. A few minutes into the game Chelsea headed over from close range and then Hahnemann needed to get down well to put the ball wide after a shot from the edge of the area looked to be heading into the bottom corner of the Reading net. However, Reading soon settled down, and the longer we kept a clean sheet to more confident we became. The game was being played at a frantic pace and Reading were starting to play their part - down the other end the Royals could have taken the lead when a cross from the left saw Bas Savage, having an impressive game, head towards goal only to have his effort pushed wide of the right post. Nicky Forster worked his way into a shooting position but failed to test the keeper and Salako shot well wide from the right.

Hahnemann continued on his way to claiming a clear man of the match, midway through the half saving a close range header and pushing another Chelsea effort wide. Chelsea were being frustrated by Hahnemann but perhaps should have done better with other efforts that they managed to blast wide or just past the post. The visitors could have had even more chances except for some excellent defending from Mackie. We might have worried about how Mackie would cope with such a quality of attack but he stood firm and made a couple of excellent challenges and, along with Murty and Ingirmarsson, made vital blocks to prevent shooting opportunities. Reading certainly weren't losing the midfield game either and were starting to see plenty of the ball as the game approached half time. To go in level at half time was an excellent achievement, but if anything we were better in the second half despite letting the vital goal in.

The second half continued with Chelsea looking dangerous with a couple of attacks at pace. Eventually they broke the deadlock with a quick break after a Reading attack broke down. Murty lost the ball after a good run forward and Chelsea worked it forward quickly into the Reading box with the Royals defence a bit thin on the ground. The ball was held back and prodded into the middle for the advancing Hasselbaink who blasted the ball into the bottom left corner from the centre of the area. There was nothing Hahnemann could have done about that one and Chelsea were a goal up. After the goal Chelsea initially looked like adding a second but Murty was again in the right place to block the shot and keep Reading in it.

Reading enjoyed a good spell of pressure where they so nearly managed to break the seemingly invincible Chelsea defence. After a strong period we won a corner which was played in from the left and the resulting header at the far post saw the Chelsea keeper beaten only to see the ball headed clear off the line. Scott Murray who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes forced a good save from the Chelsea keeper as Reading kept up the pressure. Nicky Forster so nearly broke through a couple of times but was having a very bad night with the linesman's flag that continued to go up everytime Reading attempted to play it through. Perhaps we didn't get the best of luck with the linesman but there was certainly no arguement with the result as Hahnemann was again called into action to keep the score down. Marcus reserved a couple of his best saves for the closing stages as he tipped a shot over with a great save and somehow managed to change his position in the air to cleanly catch another Chelsea effort on target.

At full time the Reading team received a standing ovation from all sides of the ground - we deserved it for an excellent performance in a highly entertaining match in which we competed with Chelsea. It was never likely that we would win this fixture and despite the defeat there was plenty of positives to take away. Hopefully Marcus is back to form - he looked a whole lot more confident tonight and that confidence seemed to spread throughout the side. Bas Savage looked a whole lot better on the ball and looked dangerous against perhaps the best defence in the country. Kevin Watson was excellent once again and helped Reading keep hold of the ball and spread it around the park a treat - if we didn't have him on our books I'd want to sign him - so take him off the transfer list Coppell.

Following report from John Wells
Reading can feel proud of their performance this evening against one of the best sides in Europe. Although the Royals never looked likely to progress to the quarter finals, they certainly made their Premiership opponents work hard for their win. Ranieri clearly was not taking this fixture lightly fielding a strong side featuring Crespo and Hasselbaink up front, Terry and Desailly at the back, and Lampard and Cole in midfield.

Chelsea enjoyed most of the possession throughout the game and created several clear cut chances but were frustrated by some superb goalkeeping from Hahnemann. The visitors adopted a 4-4-2 formation, often pushing four players forward to keep Reading on the back foot. Gronkjaer was causing the Reading defence problems with his pace and ability to take players on down the left side, and Lampard was dominant in midfield. The movement and passing of the Chelsea midfield and forwards was very slick and they were often able to open up the Royals defence. Having said that, Reading defended really well. They closed players down quickly, kept their defensive shape and maintained high levels of concentration and discipline. Reading had few chances, but they did provide Chelsea with some anxious moments. Forster broke through on the right and fired over in the first half and Savage came close with a couple of headers. Chelsea came closest to scoring when Crespo brilliantly created room for a shot on the edge of the area only to se his effort strike the inside of the post and somehow spin across to face of the goal behind Hahnemann and out for a goal kick.

At half time Reading were still very much in the game although there was a feeling that it was only a matter of time before Chelsea put away one of their chances. Makalele replaced Cole at half time and Chelsea resumed where they left off at the end of the first half. Reading remained positive and the crowd were still behind them. Forster was looking sharper than he has for some time and it was great to see him running at Terry, going outside the Chelsea centre back and firing a shoot which had to be pushed away for a corner. Ironically it was Fozzy that was partly responsible for the Chelsea goal. Chelsea had failed to clear the ball and as Hughes shaped to shoot Forster failed to appreciate what was going on and collided with him, not only losing the shooting opportunity, but also conceding possession. Chelsea took full advantage sending a long pass to Crespo who held the ball up before rolling the ball for Hasselbaink to score. Reading brought on Murray for Hughes and switched to a 4-4-2 formation with Savage playing up front with Forster. Tyson came on for Salako as Reading pressed for an equaliser. The closest they came was from a long range effort from Watson and a header from Ingmarsson which beat Sullivan and was headed off the line by Terry. Hahnemann capped a fine performance with a great save from a dipping drive from Mutu who had been brought on for the last ten minutes. Terry and Desailly coped easily with Forster and Savage in the closing stages of the game but the mere fact that Reading were still looking for an equaliser near the end was a tribute to their effort and overall quality of their performance.

Tonight's game proved that Reading have players of real quality. Hahnemann, Watson, Sidwell, Murty, Shorey and Ingmarsson in particular revelled in playing against high quality opposition. Savage had some good moments too, giving Babayoro a very uncomfortable evening. This performance must have given the side greater confidence and belief in their ability to succeed in the First Division. It also underlined Reading's need for another striker to play alongside Forster. It is not often fans can go home feeling good about their team after a defeat, but tonight was one of those games.


Well played Reading Ok we may have lost, but when the Chelski team trotted out, I thought flipping heck it's the first team what on earth is the score going to be! I thought we did really well, ok our goal may have been bombarded for most of the game, but we really could have sneaked a goal and then who knows what could have happened . Personally I think Chelsea were cruising and could have stepped up a gear any time, but we did well under such pressure to contain them to the one goal. Nobody could but grudgingly envy the Chelsea fans to have been given such a galaxy of superstars to wear their shirts. No point mentioning names they were all very good, but I thought the icing on the cake was when they brought Mutu on as third sub! Must mention the usual tosser of a ref who should have added on at least 6 minutes for the injury to Sullivan and the blind pillock of a linesman who was so bias towards them. Back to reality on Saturday, I snap anybody's hand off if offered the choice of points at Wigan over a win tonight, bet we have a harder game there, but if we play with the resilience and passion at Wigan as we did tonight we'll come away with something. Let's hope we do.
Nick Newbury

This was a great game, going down 0-1 to the team Chelsea put out last night is a fantastic result. And a great atmosphere in the ground. No doubt about USA being man of the match. Some brilliant world-class stops. In fact it almost felt like a world cup game when the Chelea line up was read out - and as the subs were brought on in the second half, each costing Chelsea more than most of the Royals squad put together. All our team played well, and were positive in their play, which is something of a relevation compared to performances of not so long ago. I thought Mackie in particular put in a great performance, Watson seemed to be everywhere, and Tyson when he came on showed enough pace to give the Chelsea defence something to think about. I thought the referee was fairly even handed, but the east stand linesman should be standing upside down - as blind as a bat!
Merv, Wimbledon Royal

Well done RFC! The team can hold their heads up after this performance & consider themselves a little unlucky not to at least take the game into extra time. I still think the 4-5-1 obsession unhealthy, but Salako & Savage swapping sides & Savage's willingness to move infield to support Forster made the formation work much better than it has done recently. Watson too had another good game in the middle & has surely done enough to stay there unless he dips chronically in form. This level of performance has been missing in league games & it's something the team need to aim for over the coming busy holiday period. COME ON........
Caversham Royal

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