Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - Premier League


Reading: Pavel Pogrebnyak (25), Danny Guthrie (29)
Chelsea: Frank Lampard (pen 18), Gary Cahill (69), Fernando Torres (81), Branislav Ivanovic (90)

Elvis Costello sang ‘I Don’t Want To Go Chelsea’. At a minimum £47 for an adult away ticket you can see his logic. The ‘working man’s game’ ethos doesn’t apply at Chelsea, the original nouveau riche football club who sadly finally managed to buy the overblown ‘Champions’ League last season despite themselves qualifying by being champions of precisely nothing in 2010/11. In a week where Everton – a club who themselves can boast gates of nearly 40,000 most weeks – achieved a home win over Manchester United which was described as "the first big shock of the season", nothing brought home the disparity in resources in this league more than our visit to Stamford Bridge.

And this trip nearly resulted in a genuine shock as Reading led until the final 20 minutes and eventually missed out on a bonus point or three from a game from which fans and media observers would have expected little. Ultimately it was our naivety and McDemott’s willingness to go for the win when pegged back to 2-2 which cost us. The former factor needs to be eradicated, the latter factor needs to be re-assessed.

The omens for what proven an exciting game hardly looked promising early on as Reading – switching to a 5 man midfield with Karacan returning, with a gameplan for stifling the hosts - were rather overrun. Ramires cut in and saw his shot well saved by Federici and the fleet-footed Hazard rolling the ball wide of the far past when put through on goal. There was an air of inevitability when Hazard floated to the ground like a discarded feather duster after Gunter gullibly left a foot in. Referee Mason couldn’t have been keener to point to the spot and Lampard firmly put the penalty away. We all settled back to watch a routine home win.

But Reading took the initiative. Pogrebnyak ploughing a lone furrow up front was holding the ball up well and the Reading wingers became firmly involved in the game on the counter. Midway through the half a McLeary run and cross was met by Pogrebnyak’s forehead for a stunning equaliser which left Peter Cech clawing at air. 5 minutes later and we led. McAnuff on the other flank was brought down, a freekick to Reading was for once left by Harte and Guthrie’s firmly struck effort was straight at Cech and off the goalkeeper’s palms into the net. The Reading contingent went bananas and sang a loud, cheeky warning to Manchester City about the future destination of the Premier League title. I won’t write this again this season methinks: we were top of the league.

And it should have been 3-1 at half time. Harte’s measured freekick scuffed the top of Pearce’s head and dropped wide with Cech stranded. That could have been the gamebreaker, but inevitably Chelsea came at us second half. Our shape was excellent, the willing and able Danny Guthrie used what little possession we had to good effect to relieve the pressure and Chelsea were camped on the edge of our box without creating much bother for Federici. So it was sickening to concede with twenty left given the nature of the goal; a desperate shot from outside the box by centre-half Cahill which Federici clumsily palmed into his own net. 2-2 the score, 1-1 on goalkeeping gaffes.

Perhaps the real ‘gamebreaking’ moment was the decision to withdraw the excellent Pog for Hunt a matter of minutes after Le Fondre had replaced Karacan. Introducing two strikers was an odd decision on the face of things from McDermott, given the success of 4-5-1 on the night in stifling Chelsea. And it was naive play once again from Hunt failing to hold up the ball shortly after he was introduce which conceded possession and resulted in a cross from the left side being tucked home by Torres who was a mile offside. You don’t expect many decisions away at the bigger clubs, but you’d rather hope that the linesman would see daylight in front of him. Very poor.

Reading pressed at 3-2 down; a Robson Kanu cross caused panic but McAnuff’s resultant header across goal was tidied up and an Ian Harte freekick from range was deflected wide with Cech wrong footed. Federici was sent up for the resultant injury time corner and as the ball was cleared the lightning Hazard sprinted clear to set up Ivanovic for a tap in. Hard on Reading, but it should be remembered that at 3-2 down in injury time there we were banging on the European Champions door for an equaliser as their multi-million pound team were holding on.

Neil Maskell

This Premier League game took place 2037 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.