MATCH REPORT: 2007/2008 Season

1 January 2008: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: -
Portsmouth: Campbell (9 mins), Utaka (66 mins).
Half Time: 0-1
Attendance: 24,084

Pos Team P Pts GD
12 Tottenham 21 24 +4
13 READING 21 22 -15
14 Middlesbro 21 20 -17
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey (De la Cruz 71), Hunt, Harper, Cisse, Convey (Bikey 7), Doyle (Long 83), Kitson. Subs Not Used: Federici, Lita.
Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson, Utaka, Diop, Hughes (Lauren 83), Muntari, Kranjcar (Taylor 89), Mwaruwari (Kanu 63). Subs Not Used: Begovic, Nugent.
Reading: Murty, Cisse, Bikey. Sent Off: Sonko (3 mins).
Portsmouth: Hughes.
Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).
This defeat was very much a self inflicted wound. Ibrahima Sonko and Marcus Hahnemann combined to virtually destroy any hope Reading had of winning this game in the first ten minutes. From the moment Sol Campbell prodded the ball into the net from an offside position in the ninth minute it was clearly not going to be a happy new year for Royals fans. By then Sonko had been sent off, Kranjcar had missed a penalty, and Convey had narrowly missed a good chance to put Reading ahead. Once the madness of the opening minutes had subsided, the game settled into a pattern which appeared to have only one inevitable outcome - a win for Pompey. Reduced to ten men Reading regrouped, replacing Convey with Bikey and left Kitson up front on his own, a challenge he was clearly up for. Portsmouth were certainly not in any hurry to add to their score, and Reading contained the visitors well. Pompey in the main were restricted to passing the ball sideways and backwards in midfield without really threatening to add to their early gifted goal.

The recent defeat at Spurs in spite of a good performance, had not dented the confidence of the team, and Reading fans were right to expect the current run of good form to continue. They were further encouraged when Doyle went past Campbell wide on the left to get his cross over. Two minutes later Sonko found himself on the wrong side of Benjani, and a very square back four, not expecting Reading to lose possession, were caught out by a ball into space behind them. Sonko was beaten for pace and made an inexplicably rash decision to trip the Pompey forward as he closed in on goal. Kranjcar struck his penalty against the post and unlike the crucial goal against Spurs last Saturday, there was were no opposing forwards encroaching in the area and the ball was cleared. This gave everyone a lift and almost immediately Reading had a good chance to take the lead when Doyle, this time wide on the right, went past at least three Pompey defenders before crossing to Convey who hit it wide of the far post. If that had gone in it would have been a very different game. The positive reaction was encouraging but minutes later Hahnemann failed to collect a routine cross and Campbell opened the scoring to further test the character and resilience of the home side. It has to be said the ten men left on the field were a credit to the club and difficult though the task was, gave the impression they believed they could still get something from an apparently lost cause. Doyle almost equalised just before half time after Hunt had made a typically determined run down the right and found him with a ball into the box. His shot beat James but clipped his leg as it went under him and the ball drifted just wide of the far post. Pompey then hit the bar with a Benjani header.

The second half continued much as the first with Portsmouth in control without really putting Reading under any real pressure. There were occasions when Portsmouth probed forward but Reading forced them to pass the ball back into their own half to retain possession. Steve Coppell must have been more than satisfied with that aspect of the performance. The game was settled with a simple ball over the top which a fully fit Shorey would have dealt with, but on this occasion Utaka left him for dead and rounded Hahnemann before rolling the ball into the empty net. Shorey wqas immediatly replaced by De La cruz and Reading continued to press for a goal but when Hunt swung and missed a Doyle cross it clearly not going to happen.

I expect most of the team playing today will have a well deserved day off on Saturday and can reflect with some pride on their efforts over the Christmas period. I am encouraged by recent form, and from I've seen, although not all the results have gone our way, performances have been good overall. Hahnemann will feel upset about his error today but it was no worse than recent howlers from Petr Cech and the England 'keeper! Sonko is more of a worry at the moment. He has tremendous potential but it is a matter of his capacity to learn from his mistakes which is crucial. Regardless of any activity in the transfer market I have seen enough recently to convince me that Reading can keep out of the bottom three this season.

From ten heroes at West Ham to ten very tired players against Pompey who were well and truly dumped on by a combination of Murty giving the ball away yet again and Sonko blundering away in the box just after 3 minutes and gets sent off again. I'm sorry but the sooner Sonko clears off to the Africa nations cup the better, no more superman, more like pubplayerman. Chuck in Hahnemann's dreadful gaff to gift them the first goal and you have the liability club, Murty, Sonko and Hahnemann. It's hurts me to say so but our defence is becoming a joke , even Shorey looked like he had glue on his boots for their second goal. With the transfer window open for me a quality centre back is top of the shopping list with a couple of midfield players close behind . All in all you couldn't get a worse way to start 2008 with a game at time that resembled a training kick about, though great credit to the home fans for trying to lift their team . But to reiterate, first rule in football is not to let in goals , this has become a critical problem for us and must be resolved, the transfer window offers hope, and hope is what we need with the forthcoming fixtures. A final word to the ref and has assistants, probably one of the worst dsplays of refereeing and ruining a game you'll ever see, hope they all get the flu!
Nick Newbury

I felt the Christmas programme was going to be tough but in all three games there was something there for us only to be thrown the players. At West Ham the game was there for the taking but Gunnarson gave the ref a decision to make and he did - we blew three points. At 2-1 up at Spurs we were cutting through them like a knife through butter. Had Kits taken at least one of the one on one's, I think the game would have been won - Spurs looked on their knees. He didn't, we couldn't defend, three points blown. As for today, I'm getting fed up of Sonks giving away penalties. He got himself in a bad position, why I don't know, but then brings Benjani down and guess what, red card and any chance of points against an out of form Pompey were blown. So all in all a poor effort following a lucky win against Sunderland and much to be concerned about.
Nick Tilehurst

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With a man advantage, Portsmouth had the better of the first half with Benjani in particular causing problems on the break... After half-time Reading continued to struggle to break down a well-organised Portsmouth defence marshalled brilliantly by Campbell. The hosts were reduced to half-chances and James Harper sent a half-volley over the Pompey bar from 18 yards. Portsmouth continued to look dangerous on the break and with 25 minutes remaining Utaka made it 2-0 with a brilliant solo goal.
BBC Sport