News and Views
Magnificent Reading Defeated In Wembley Extra Time
19 April 2015
By Hob Nob Anyone?
Reading were magnificent in defeat as FA Cup holders Arsenal eventually overcame the Royals, in extra time, in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Royals, in their first FA Cup semi-final since 1927, surpassed all expectations and not only avoided a thrashing but came back from a goal behind to deservedly take the game into an extra 30 minutes. The Royals looked more than capable of taking the game onto penalties, or even snatching a winner such was their determination, before the Arsenal winner when 105 minutes had already been played. The goal will be remembered for a Federici error as the ball squeezed through his hands and through his legs before trickling over the goal-line in slow motion in front of the Reading fans.
It was an extremely unfortunate and costly mistake from Federici who was clearly distraught and had had an excellent match for Reading. Federici had made a string of excellent saves to keep Reading in the game and had displayed very safe hands throughout. It was just a single moment after a superb display from the entire Reading team.
Reading fans had come to Wembley expecting a defeat and just hoping to enjoy a great day out. They got both of those things but were treated to a great game of football in which Reading would have easily won over all the neutrals. In the end there was a feeling of disappointment that we hadn't managed to reach the final after getting the closest in the entire history of the club, and putting up since resistance to the team on amazing form and second in the Premier League Extra-time at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final and only losing by one goal to Arsenal. I never thought I'd see the day.
Wembley was covered in sunshine as over 30,000 Reading fans turned up in high spirits for a welcome distraction from a disappointing league campaign. With Reading "nearly" safe from relegation this was always going to be the climax for the season. The club arranged free blue or white t-shirts arranged in hoops around the Reading half of the ground and there was a decent atmosphere - particularly in the second half when Reading surged forward towards their own fans.
Reading did create chances but will have won most praise for their incredible defensive performance. Both Pearce and Hector were outstanding in the centre of the Reading defence, but Hector shone. Obita and Gunter had excellent games at full back. The pattern of the first half was a variation on what we had been expecting. Arsenal did have the most of the ball but Reading seemed to be able to contain them and even got forward themselves. The tidy passing game belonged to both sides, but it was Arsenal that were guilty of the odd mis-placed past as they looked uncomfortable under Reading's close attention. The Royals refused to give Arsenal space and certainly weren't scared to tackle. Hector and Williams appeared to win nearly every tackle they went in for.
The best chance of the first half for Reading fell to Jordan Obita who got forward well and struck the ball with force, only to see it straight at Szczesny, the Arsenal keeper. Jamie Mackie appeared very unfortunate to be called off-side as Reading tried to counter attack. In goal, Federici comfortably claimed some crosses and saved well from Mertesacker. As the time passed Reading appeared to grow in belief, as did the supporters, and we'd almost stopped counting down the minutes that Reading had held on for when Arsenal took the lead. Sanchez twisted through the defence sending players the wrong direction before firing in his shot. Federici tried to spread himself, but the ball passed through his legs to give Arsenal a half time lead.
At the break talk was of an excellent Reading performance already, but the reality that we were probably already dead and buried with Arsenal leading. However, Reading again set out with a point to prove and make a mockery of their league placing. Williams was even more active in midfield and he seemed to be everywhere for Reading, stopping Arsenal's possession and causing a real nusience of himself. It was beautiful to watch. McCleary was very lively down the wing, following on from his performance in the 3-0 victory over Bradford City in the quarter final replay against Bradford.
Nine minutes into the second half Pavel Pogrebnyak got to the line and cut the ball back into the area to find McCleary in the other side of the area. McClearly slid in and his shot wasn't held by Szczesny and it looped well over the line for the Reading equaliser. As it was right in front of the Reading fans there was an instant celebration before a momentary pause just to confirm that the referee was going to give the goal, before absolute chaos to celebrate.
The second half wasn't far off being even as both sides had chances to prevent extra time. Pogrebnyak was doing well to get in the right place and engineer chances but was twice wasteful as he failed to either get in a proper shot or to lay the ball off. Federici kept Reading in the game with a spectacular save reaching high to tip the ball over the crossbar when a header looked to be heading into the top corner. The game turned into a dramatic end to end contest with a few nervous moments as Arsenal came forward. We still expected the heartbreak of a late Arsenal winner before both sides appeared to ease off before the end of normal time to settle for extra time.
In extra time, Reading somehow found the energy to continue at the same level for the first period. Federici was fortunate to see the ball hit him and bounce over the crossbar to safety before Arsenal's counter attack with the 15 minutes already played led to Federici's nightmare error. Reading had a penalty claim ignored in what looked like a hand ball from down our end, but after that unfortunate Arsenal goal the chances were limited. After the extra time break, Arsenal were able to contain a tired Reading and play out time. Reading kept on running, kept on passing, and kept tackling with only a slightly reduced intensity. At full time of extra time, Federici was off down the tunnel while the rest of the team came over to rightly take the applause of the Reading fans. This was a very good performance from a Reading team that can be rightly proud of their FA Cup performances this season.
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