MATCH REPORT: 2006/2007 Season

27 February 2007: FA CUP ROUND FIVE REPLAY
Reading: Kitson (23 mins), Lita (84 mins).
Manchester United: Heinze (2 mins), Saha (4 mins), Solskjaer (6 mins).
Half Time: 1-3
Attendance: 23,821

Pos Team P Pts GD
5 Bolton 27 47 +4
6 READING 28 43 +6
7 Everton 28 42 +11
Reading: Federici, De la Cruz, Gunnarsson, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Ki-Hyeon (Little 68), Sidwell, Oster, Kitson, Doyle (Lita 71). Subs Not Used: Hahnemann, Hunt, Sodje.
Manchester United: Van der Sar, Silvestre, Brown, Ferdinand, Heinze, Park, O'Shea, Fletcher, Richardson, Saha (Rooney 76), Solskjaer (Ronaldo 89). Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Smith, Scholes.
Reading: De la Cruz, Bikey.
Manchester United: -
Ref: H Webb (S Yorkshire).
Reading fans were treated to the worst and the best of the Royals last night as Reading made, in the end, a very respectable exit from the FA Cup against Manchester United. The opening ten minutes was the worst ten minutes we've experienced all season as the visitors tore into a shambolic home defence to go three goals up with just six minutes on the clock. Reading were all over the place right from the start, as United took the lead with just a minute played. After all of Federici's first round heroics, he probably should have done better with the first goal after United were allowed to pull the ball back from the right and the shot went under his body. Reading didn't get a chance to recover - it was two a couple of minutes later as United were allowed all the time on the ball they wanted. The third, after six minutes, seemed to make it game over as Solskjaer ran through surely from an off-side position to go one-on-one with Federici before burying it.

There was no sign that Reading were even going to compete as passes continually failed to find targets and United were allowed to bring the ball forward again and again. With ten minutes on the clock we feared the worst. But slowly Reading clawed their way back into the game as United sat back on their comfortable lead. Just when neutral fans at home, watching on BBC1, were probably hovering over the remote control buttons Reading began their recovery. A well worked corner from the right saw Oster's delivery headed back and Kitson was presented with an easy header form close range. From that point on there was only one side in it as Reading dominated the rest of the game and began playing some much better football.

The second half was an excellent performance from Reading. Defensively we got it together with the determined Bikey putting in some vital tackles. In midfield Gunnarsson was everywhere, giving United no time on the ball and constantly winning it back and playing a simple pass to set up another attacking move. We swarmed forward. With six minutes left we got a reward when de la Cruz crossed and substitute Leroy Lita's finish was perfect beating Van der Sar just inside the post to make it 2-3. Reading so nearly forced extra time with United on the ropes. The visitors brought on Rooney and then Ronaldo to break up Reading's play as the Royals continued to threaten. The best of several further chances saw the superb Gunnarsson smash an effort against the United crossbar in the dying minutes. It would have been fair return for our efforts and who knows what with have happened in extra time with Reading playing so well.

When Brynjar Gunnarsson's dipping volley beat Van De Sar and crashed against the crossbar in injury time, Reading were denied a remarkable and probably deserved comeback. Reading fans sat bewildered in an opening five minutes which saw United rattle in three goals in quick succession. Reading were visibly stunned by United's opening salvo and understandably took some time to adjust to being so far behind so quickly. The television audience must have been wondering if they were watching a live game or the edited highlights! From that devastating start Reading clawed their way back into the game with goals from Kitson and Lita, and for long spells in the second half looked likely to overwhelm the league leaders with a fine display of attacking football.

Federici had an awful start when he allowed a powerful strike from Heinze to squirm under his body into the net in the first minute. Before the Royals could clear their heads Saha was allowed time and space to fire home a second. A minute later with their next attack Solskjaer produced a similar finish from the right. Two great strikes but I was surprised how much room they were given. For a while Reading looked as if they might crumble as their passing in midfield was particularly poor. Gradually pride and team spirit took a grip on the team and it was not entirely against the run of play when Kitson pulled a goal back nodding the ball over the line from close range when a corner was flicked on from the near post. The crowd found its voice again and by half time Reading looked at least able to keep the score to a respectable level.

The second half was stirring stuff. There was a fluidity aggression about Reading's attacking play which United found hard to handle. The Royals had already built up considerable pressure when Little and Lita replaced Seol and Doyle. Shorey, Gunnarsson and Little were outstanding in final twenty minutes as they found space, took players on, and produced delightful moments of inventive play. Lita thumped home a header near the end to send United into panic mode in the closing stages. By now Rooney was on and looking dangerous. It took a great tackle from Bikey to deny him a chance to kill the game off. To his credit, Rooney might have gone down and won a penalty under Bikey's initial lunge, but elected not to cheat and stay on his feet - unlike Saha who he replaced who threw himself to the ground at every opportunity. United clung on to their slender lead but looked far from happy in the closing stages.

In the end elimination from the F A Cup did not seem to matter to the home fans. They all stayed to the end and applauded their team off the field. They had every reason to be proud of them. They had witnessed a highly entertaining cup tie and a magnificent team performance.
John Wells

Anybody who had the audacity to question the tradition of the FA Cup should have been at the Madejski last night. Having given ourselves a mountain to climb by going three down after a stunning six minutes Reading literally came within inches of the summit when my man of the match Brynn Gunnarsson struck a thundering shot that smashed into the crossbar with seconds to go, such is the thin line between success and glorified failure. But this was no failure by Reading Football Club, this was a glorious defeat by our so called second string who gave Man U the fright of their lives. The sight of Man U being decamped in their on half and being battered by wave after wave of attacks from Reading will stay long in the memory. Federici went from hero to villain in a matter of minutes with the first two goals but he knows that and will hopefully learn , his second half performance was excellent as was Bikey who appeared to have had a head transplant at half time. With the exception of our far eastern winger every Reading player worked his proverbial socks off and deserved something out of the this game but it was not to be. You just cannot help wondering if we had played the likes of Little, Lita, Harper and Hunt from the start what would have been, but we'll never know and I am no way on earth going to criticise Sir God Steve. I left so proud of my team last night and all the texts coming through after the game said the same thing , "you may have lost but you gave everything and should be proud of them",... we all are. Great chance to bounce back with an easy game on Saturday! UURRZZZ
Nick Newbury

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