MATCH REPORT: 2007/2008 Season

22 December 2007: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: Ingimarsson (69 mins), Hunt (90 mins).
Sunderland: Chopra (82 mins, pen).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 24,082

Pos Team P Pts GD
11 Newcastle 17 25 -2
12 READING 18 21 -11
13 Tottenham 18 18 -1
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Hunt, Harper, Gunnarsson, Convey (Long 84), Doyle, Kitson. Subs Not Used: Federici, Cisse, Lita, Bikey.
Sunderland: Gordon, Whitehead, McShane, Higginbotham, Collins, Chopra (Stokes 87), Yorke, Leadbitter, Murphy (Wallace 62), Jones, Cole (Etuhu 62). Subs Not Used: Ward, Harte.
Reading: -
Sunderland: Murphy, Leadbitter, Jones, Yorke.
Ref: Steve Tanner (Somerset).
Reading needed a controversial late goal to get a full three points, which they should have secured much earlier in the game. The Royals were by far the better side throughout but Sunderland looked to have snatched an unlikely draw with a late penalty, before a Stephen Hunt effort, that may not have crossed the line, was awarded as a goal. Although the goal may or may not have been Reading fans were left thanking the linesman who awarded the goal, and an extra two points, with some frantic flag waving as the referee looked to play on. Despite the drama, the scoreline was a fair reflection of the game after Reading, fielding another unchanged line-up, dominated the first half.

This was a good all round performance from the Royals, and it needed Marcus Hahnemann to be in good early form to make a brave double save as Sunderland broke clean through. It was to be a very rare chance for the visitors who struggled to break out of their half for the rest of the first forty five minutes. This was a physical encounter, with Sunderland lucky to pick up just four bookings for a game long strategy of crunching challenges regardless of the balls location. The Royals were playing the better football but were finding it hard to create many clear cut chances with Sunderland defending in numbers. Dave Kitson hit an excellent long range effort just over the cross bar and Hunt perhaps could have claimed a first half goal when the keeper appeared from nowhere to save on - or perhaps just over the line. Doyle might have done better with a shot from a tight angle that flew across the face of goal as Sunderland hung on.

After the break Reading remained on top and the excellent Hunt nearly scored with an amazing long range shot that slammed into the far post. For me Stephen Hunt was again man of the match showing some great skills - and on another day he might have easily had a hat-trick. We felt that it was just a matter of time before we scored in the second half, but we had to wait until twenty minutes from the end against an improving Sunderland side. A free-kick on the right was headed on by Sonko and the goalkeeper failed to cleanly collect leaving the ball to spill into the path of Ingimarsson who buried it from close range to put Reading ahead.

Reading were guilty of attempting to sit on their lead from that point, and rather than attempt to wrap the game up we allowed Sunderland to attack and defended deep. It was nearly a fatal mistake. With eight minutes left Sunderland broke free and Sonko was judged to have played the man and not the ball inside the area. Chopra stepped up and sent Hahnemann the wrong direction with a clinical penalty. The Sunderland fans went mental and the game was turned on it's head as Sunderland went looking for a winner themselves. Steve Coppell sent on super sub Shane Long and he had an immediate impact. It was anyones game, but Long made the difference, striding forward into the area in the final moments of the game to cross to Hunt at the far post. Hunt got the contact, the keeper got a hand to it but it wasn't enough as Reading were awarded the goal, and a vital three points to move back up to 12th spot in the table.

Reading clinched their second successive home victory with a highly controversial stoppage time winner from Steven Hunt. A Shane Long cross found Hunt at the far post. Gordon appeared to have clawed his shot away to prevent a goal when the referee spotted his assistant frantically waving his flag to indicate that the ball had crossed the line. The home fans celebrated as Sunderland protested furiously, but to no avail. It clinched a deserved victory for Reading although they could have easily lost in the dying minutes. The game simmered throughout the first half and came to the boil in the last twenty minutes.

The Royals, full of confidence after a three match unbeaten run, including a fine win against Liverpool, attacked with purpose for most of the first half. They were quickly into their stride, and apart from a scare when Andy Cole tested Hahnemann after beating the offside trap, it was mainly one way traffic as Sunderland found it hard to get out of their own half. Reading peppered the visitors penalty area a with a series of corners, crosses and free-kicks. Convey had a sight of goal early in the game but snatched at his chance and dragged it wide.Kitson, as always, looked very good on the ball and crossed to the far post to Hunt who forced a point blank save from Gordon. Kitson came close with long range effort, and Doyle broke clear but pulled his shot wide from an acute angle. For all their dominance Reading did not create many clear cut chances and Sunderland had battled hard and often illegally to keep them at bay. Only very generous refereeing kept the number of bookings down for the visitors.

Roy Keane must have convinced his team they were capable of better than a draw at half time because Sunderland were far more positive in the second half. However, Reading almost took the lead soon after the re-start. Kitson dropping deep once again to good effect produced an inch perfect crossfield pass to Hunt who cut inside and unleashed a shot which beat Gordon but smacked against the post. The deadlock was broken with twenty minutes left to play, and again Hunt was involved. When he was brought down, Harper curled in a free kick. Sonko headed goalwards, Gordon saved, and Ingimarsson tapped it over the line when the very expensive 'keeper failed to hold onto the ball. As the game wore on Kenwyn Jones began to trouble the Reading defence. With only six minutes left he burst into the penalty area pursued by Sonko. From where I was sitting it looked as if Sonko got a toe to the ball and Jones tumbled over his leg long after the ball had gone. Referee Tanner was in no doubt and Chopra tucked his penalty away confidently.

Neither team were content with a point and Sunderland came close to a second goal three times in the dying minutes. Hahnemann pushed over a rasping drive from Chopra who took advantage of space opening up in front of him as the Reading midfield melted away. Jones left Ingimarsson trailing in his wake only to see his shot deflect away off Hahnemann's legs. To convince Sunderland it really was not going to be their day, they were unable to make the most of a break which saw them outnumbering the Reading defence before the move was broken up by Gunnarsson. With very little time left Hunt scored the vital second goal to complete Sunderland's misery.

This was another enjoyable home win but unlike two weeks ago everyone stayed to the end and were rewarded for their commitment. There were spells of very good play from Reading but it was their work rate which was impressive once again. Hunt as usual was everywhere, but everyone played their part today. Even Convey, who still tended to shy away from tackles, chased back and won the ball on several occasions and had his best game since coming back from injury. The longer the team remains settled, the stronger Reading look, and even with two tough away games over Christmas I am hopeful of a point from one of those games.


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On another day Kevin Doyle, the Reading striker, might have scored a hat-trick but he and his team were profligate for the most part before, finally, James Harper floated a free kick into the near post that Ibrahima Sonko met with a downward header, Gordon parried and Ivar Ingimarsson converted a simple tap-in, the centre-half’s first goal of the season. It was only what Reading deserved... Kitson and Doyle, both twice, Sonko, Hunt and Nicky Shorey all peppered Gordon’s goal without success before Ingimarsson brought relief to the home team and although Sunderland, to their credit, tried to hit back, their half-chances were sporadic before Sonko gave them a pass back into the game.
Brian Doogan, The Times

Stephen Hunt's controversial injury-time goal denied Sunderland a point at the Madejski stadium. Hunt's shot was clawed away by Craig Gordon but the officials ruled the ball had crossed the line. Ivar Ingimarsson gave Reading the lead from close range, but Sunderland hit back through Michael Chopra's late penalty after a foul on Kenwyne Jones. Hunt hit the post as Reading dominated, but Jones missed a great chance for the visitors late on... The majority of the first half was played in Sunderland's half as the home side carved out several chances without finding the back of the net.