Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - Premier League
READING 2 CHELSEA 2
Reading: A Le Fondre (87 mins), A Le Fondre (90 mins).
Chelsea: J Mata (45 mins), F Lampard (66 mins).
Reading made it a hat-trick of unbelievable turn arounds - coming from two goals down with just three minutes left on the clock to draw 2-2 with third placed Chelsea. Everyone would have thought Reading were dead and buried with time running out - apart from Reading and their fans who know better. Following near miracles against West Brom and Newcastle it was the same recipe again as the late rescue of a point took Reading out of the bottom three in the Premier League. And once again we had Adam Le Fondre to thank after he scored two more goals despite missing 67 minutes of the action. His finishing was sublime as he looked the best player on the pitch - on a pitch filled with world class players.
There was no sign of the late drama to come during an forgetable first half. Neither side created any real chances and it looked set to be 0-0 at half time until Mata got round the back of the defence to score just before the break. Chelsea looked in control at the start of the second half as they continued to enjoy most of the possession and it was 0-2 on 66 minutes when a corner from the left was headed firmly home by Frank Lampard. There was no chance that McDermott would give up on this one despite Chelsea looking for a third and looking like they had the game won.
The turning point was on 77 minutes when Hope Akpan came off the bench to join super sub Adam Le Fondre who had been introduced ten minutes earlier. The two players combined in spectacular form to turn the game around for Reading. After failing to create a single chance of note Reading finally saw some action down the right end with approaching ten minutes left on the clock. Both Akpan and Le Fondre had decent long range efforts that were just wide and high of the Chelsea goal. It was the start of the late, late revival.
On 87 minutes Akpan played the ball forward on the left deep into the box and Le Fondre took just one touch to guide the ball across goal and into the back of the net. The Reading fans hoped, and even expected, the comeback to be completed and stepped up their performance as the team stepped up theirs. Chelsea were doing their best to run down the clock as five minutes of stoppage time were announced. At every opportunity Reading tried to get the ball forward until deep in injury time Federici pumped forward a free-kick into the box. Akpan headed it down and Le Fondre repeated his previous efforts with an excellent finish from a similar position to make it 2-2, seal another memorable comeback, bag a point, and send the Madejski Stadium absolutely nuts once more.
Some people never learn. With under ten minutes remaining some Royals fans made their way to the exit convinced their team could not possibly come back from a two goal deficit against the champions of Europe. Those who remained were rewarded for their loyalty with another remarkable comeback. The Reading squad may be lacking in recognised star players but in Adam Le Fondre they have unearthed an exceptionally talented goalscorer. (Currently the highest scoring English player in the Premier League.) His two superbly taken goals in the last eight minutes of tonight's game gave Reading a point which lifted them out of the bottom three.
Both sets of fans were in good voice and good humour from the start. The banter between them was as least as entertaining as the game in the first half. (Apart from a couple of idiots who had to be removed for fighting.) Neither side managed a shot on target – until added time when Torres clipped a delicate pass into space inside the box for Mata to run onto and fire across Federici to give the visitors the lead. It was very disappointing for Reading having successfully restricted Chelsea to passing the ball mainly sideways and backwards throughout the first half. Reading had looked secure in spite of Harte’s rustiness following a lay off leading to some uncharacteristic sloppy play.
Things went from bad to worse in the second half. Reading seemed in capable of keeping the ball. Harte had settled back in to his game and his excellent positional sense prevented Chelsea taking a lead with a superb clearance with Federici stranded. The Royals went further behind when Lampard headed in a Mata corner. No doubt there will be an inquest into that before Saturday. McDermott shuffled things around first bringing McCleary on, moving McAnuff inside and taking off Guthrie. That seemed to have little impact as Chelsea continued to dominate play and began to blatantly waste time. Kebe disappeared in the second half and I was surprised he was not first to receive the hook. The next two substitutions changed the game. Le Fondre replaced McAnuff and Akpan replaced Karacan. With time running out and Chelsea fans incessantly reminding us of the status as European Champions, Akpan found a pass of exquisite weight and timing which Le Fondre gleefully smashed inside Turnbull’s near post. Surely Reading could not come back again. Ramirez tested Federici with a good strike following a swift counter attack, and Federici responded with a good save. With very little of the five minutes added time remaining Akpan nodded down a free kick for Le Fondre to steer magnificently past Turnbull for the equaliser. The stadium erupted, well most of it. The Chelsea fans trooped out despondently.
It is turning into a remarkable season as Reading claw their way out of trouble with seemingly limited resources but an outstanding manager and a team that never knows when it is beaten. Taking a point from such a talented team as Chelsea is quite an achievement. Taking three from Sunderland on Saturday will be equally challenging. One thing is certain, there will probably be fewer people leaving before the end.
Footnote: The Chelsea fans made a significant contribution to the evening's entertainment with their humour, and their singing was mainly in celebration of their team’s success as opposed to ridiculing their opponents. Even when Reading were two goals down I could not help but smile at "No noise from the Wiatrose boys" followed by "Sing when you’re shopping, you only sing when you’re shopping". I think Reading fans should take ownership of the latter. "We only sing when we’re shopping" is the perfect riposte to the obligatory "Shall we sing a song for you?"
This Premier League game took place 2144 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.