MATCH REPORT: 2007/2008 Season

19 January 2008: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: -
Man Utd: Rooney (77 mins), Ronaldo (90 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 24,135

Pos Team P Pts GD
13 Middlesbro 23 22 -17
14 READING 23 22 -19
15 Bolton 23 21 -10
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Ingimarsson, Cisse, Shorey, Doyle, Hunt, Harper, Convey (Matejovsky 80), Lita (Long 83), Kitson. Subs Not Used: Federici, Rosenior, De la Cruz.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Carrick, Hargreaves (Nani 70), Park (Giggs 46), Rooney, Tevez (Fletcher 81). Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, O'Shea.
Reading: Convey.
Man Utd: Ferdinand.
Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).
If James Harper had managed to finish, after his well timed run and perfect first touch to collect an excellent Shorey pass in the dying minutes of this keenly contested match, Reading would certainly have picked up a deserved point against the champions. Unfortunately for Reading, the ball sped agonisingly just wide of the upright with Van der Saar beaten. I suppose we will have to endure the usual predictable drivel from the media about how badly United played in a first half which saw the Royals match United in every department. Chances came at both ends, but Reading certainly put the visitors under considerable pressure forcing a series of corners and only some desperate defending kept them out. The second half was dominated by United but Reading always looked dangerous when they attacked. Cisse had done enough against Spurs in the week to convince Steve Coppell he was up to the job of playing in the centre of defence and he played with real authority making the Royals defence look far more convincing than in many recent games.

Ronaldo set the tone with his first of many attempts on goal as early as the first minute but it flew narrowly wide. I was delighted to see reading adopt an attacking 4-4-2 formation, and although United's attacks were menacing, the back four coped well in one on one situations with Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo. Lita ran onto a Convey pass and got behind the United defence but excellent defending deprived him and Kitson of a clear site of goal. Kitson came close to taking the lead when he caught Van der Saar of his line with a long range shot which Ferdinand only just managed to get his head to. Hargreaves forced a good save from Hahnmemann from a free kick after Ronaldo had been predictably tripped as he broke through on the edge of the area. Goals looked likely to come but they had not arrived by half time.

Ferguson signalled his concerns by bring on Giggs for Park at half time to try to open up the Reading defence. Hahnemann displaying typical inconsistency nearly let United in by missing a routine cross and Cisse baled him out as United increased the pressure. Kitson gave United food for thought with a well struck long range effort which unfortunately was straight at Van der Saar, and them only just failed to beat the 'keeper with a lob when he slipped past the last man. United were beginning to get frustrated enough to resort increasingly to long range shots when Lita, who had worked hard but produced little, lost the ball on the half way line. The ball broke for Tevez to cross to Rooney who had got in between two Reading defenders to guide the ball inside the far post. Harper almost brought the house down with a late equaliser before Murty made a complete hash of a shot on the edge of the box. If it had ended up in the stand it would have been fine, but he barely made contact and from the resulting counter-attack Ronaldo finished the game. Sadly, not for the first time this season, a great performance was rewarded by the home crowd heading for the exits. Surely true supporters would stay for couple of minutes to give their team the applause they deserved to offset the disappointment of defeat.

It was an encouraging performance, not just for the effort shown throughout the team, but for the emergence of Cisse as a player who can influence the outcome a game and the sight of Matejovsky in midfield. In the brief spell on the field the Czech international indicated that Reading have at last found a player capable of producing passes of the highest quality. Coppell will have to think very carefully about his selection when everyone is available again.

Have you ever seen a team get so many plaudits and praise on Match of the Day having lost a game two nil? If, if, if, only we'd have put our chances away we'd all be celebrating a famous result but sadly it was not to be. I thought we did brilliantly against Man U and really did deserve something from the game. Coppell deserves great credit for attacking Man U and getting at them and we really did play well with Cisse appearing to revel in his centre back position, the moment he hustled and bustled Tevez back to the half way with the East stand rising as one and cheering him on was a great moment. Though a late substitution I thought Matejovsky looked very promising and maybe the playmaker we've been desperately seeking. Well played Reading, a brave defeat and a performance that gives hope for games ahead.
Nick Newbury

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Second-half goals from Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo kept Manchester United at the top of the table. United ... were given a stern test by Reading who could have taken the lead had Dave Kitson lobbed over Edwin Van der Sar. But with 13 minutes remaining, Reading switched off, leaving Rooney to cushion home Carlos Tevez's cross. Reading pressed for an equaliser, but as another attack broke down, Ronaldo burst upfield and coolly slotted home. Reading boss Steve Coppell, who made 320 league appearances for United, opted for a bold, attacking line-up and his ambition was almost rewarded.
BBC Sport

Seventy-seven minutes had passed and the game had draw written all over it. But Rooney made one more run, Carlos Tevez played the sweetest of passes and the finish was magical, easily good enough to decide a fine match. United’s second, scored by Ronaldo, came deep into stoppage time and at a point when the entire Reading team was vigorously pursuing the goal that would have given them a draw... You noticed the way Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated that clinching goal and understood how delicately balanced things had been. “It was a really open game,” said Ferguson afterwards, “and our attacking play was not careful enough. We scored at the right time and held on. Credit to Reading, who never stopped working and made us work very hard.” If non-stop effort deserves to be rewarded, Reading should have taken something from the game. They were well organised, committed and willing to chase every ball.
Eddie Keogh, The Times