MATCH REPORT: 2007/2008 Season

15 August 2007: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: Bikey (30 mins)
Chelsea: Lampard (47 mins), Drogba (50 mins).
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 24,031

Pos Team P Pts GD
14 Derby 2 1 -1
15 READING 2 1 -1
16 Aston Villa 1 0 -1
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Ingimarsson, Duberry (Bikey 29), Shorey, Oster (Ki-Hyeon 79), Harper, Cisse, Hunt, Doyle, Long (Gunnarsson 74). Subs Not Used: Federici, De la Cruz.
Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira (Pizarro 46), Ben Haim, Carvalho (Johnson 31), Ashley Cole, Wright-Phillips, Sidwell (Obi 46), Lampard, Malouda, Drogba, Kalou. Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Joe Cole.
Reading: Long, Cisse, Hunt, Ingimarsson. Sent Off: Cisse (72 mins, second booking)
Chelsea: Carvalho, Sidwell, Wright-Phillips, Ashley Cole, Obi.
Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).
This was another impressive performance from Reading, but ended in disappointment as the Royals failed to take at least a point from the encounter. Reading were much the better side in the opening forty-five minutes and ready should have taken a bigger lead into the half time break. Add to that another rather harsh red card midway through the second half and Chelsea may consider themselves fortunate to leave the Madjeski with the full three points. This was a very, very different occasion to Sunday's draw with Manchester United. Coppell altered the side to produce a much more attacking line-up with Long and Doyle up front, Oster on the wing, and handed Cisse his debut in midfield. Right from the start it was obvious we were going to push hard for a win and not settle for defending.

On a slippery surface, following heavy rain before kick-off, Chelsea struggled to get going and looked a poor side. Reading looked much more confident going forward and produced the better football, winning a string of early corners. Steve Sidwell returned to Reading, in a Chelsea shirt, but didn't have a great game as Chelsea's passing game often ended in balls flying out of play or mis-kicks breaking down their moves. There was the odd sign they could be dangerous but Hahnemann had little to do in the first half with a couple of long range shots never causing him any trouble.

On the half hour Duberry limped off to be replaced by Bikey. Bikey's first contribution was to push into the Chelsea box as the ball was crossed from the right. Chelsea keeper Cech made a right mess of the cross as he came for it and failed to make contact, taking out his defence in the process. Bikey ran around the bundle of players and calmly tapped the ball into the Chelsea net with his first touch of the ball. It was a deserved lead for Reading. And it really should have been more. John Oster was having a good game and nearly made it two with a shot that found the post with the keeper beaten. Hunt was all over the field relishing the attention from the crowd and had a fantastic game. His constant determination set-up Kevin Doyle, in the middle of the box, who might have done better with a shot that was fired straight at the goal-keeper.

At the break Chelsea opted for major changes with two substitutions. It left Chelsea with no more options to them but it altered the game dramatically in the space of five minutes. With Sidwell off the pitch it allowed Lampard to push forward and a rare break in the Reading defence allowed him to break through and knock the ball past Hahnemann as he dashed into the box. Reading still hadn't settled when Drogba was allowed space on the edge of the area and turned to drive home an impressive effort that gave Hahnemann no chance. A Reading lead had dramatically changed into a Chelsea lead and suddenly we looked in trouble. For a brief period we thought it might get worse until it settled down and the visitors sat on their lead.

Murty might have pulled Reading level with a powerful low effort that was blocked by Doyle. However, Reading's chances of a come back suffered when Cisse was sent off for a second booking - ending his debut early. I really couldn't see any contact at all. It perhaps wasn't even a foul. However the Chelsea player went rolling around the pitch in pretend agony just long enough for the referee to be convinced and reduce Reading to ten men. After that Chelsea adopted an obscene time wasting approach that rewarded them with two bookings for their efforts. However, it did slow the game down. Despite the disadvantage in numbers, Reading kept on playing and the last couple of minutes saw the entire Reading side in the Chelsea half as Hahnemann became an outfield player to keep the pressure up. However, Chelsea's extra man made the difference and the Royals were unable to get in a shot as time ran out. It was another night to be proud of the side. The right approach and so much effort wasn't quite enough on the night.

Following report from John Wells:
The power and quality of Didier Drogba's long range strike early in the second half underlined the difference between the two teams. Reading, having taken the lead in the first half, failed to convert several very good scoring opportunities into goals, and had a single goal advantage at the interval. Chelsea on the other hand, found chances hard to come by as Reading worked hard to deny them space, especially around the edge of the box, but Lampard took full advantage of a lapse in concentration to equalise and then Drogba's individual brilliance won the game.

Torrential rain soaked Reading's magnificent new turf before the kick-off creating the sort of playing surface that encouraged fast attacking football. Both sides obliged in a very lively opening five minutes. Chelsea looked dangerous on the break with Wright-Phillips a threat with his direct running on the right, but it was the Royals that made the clear cut openings. Oster twice found himself in space at the far post but elected to control the ball rather than take the opportunity to shoot. Ingamarsson was narrowly wide with a header from a corner as Reading mounted the pressure. Long and Doyle were proving very hard to handle with their willingness to run and compete for the ball. Hunt almost got onto the end of a Doyle knock back but was thwarted by a last ditch challenge.

Reading's goal came from a free kick on the half hour. Duberry was injured and and been replaced by Bikey who sent immediately into the box. Reading won the header from the free kick and Cech flapped at the ball as it dropped and collided with a defender. The ball fell to Bikey who had the simple task of tapping the ball into the empty net. A gift - but one, which Reading fully deserved. Two minutes later Doyle was given the chance to double the lead but his left foot shot on the turn was straight at Cech. Moment later an audacious back heel from Hunt set up a crossing opportunity on the left. The resulting deep cross found Oster unmarked again at the far post. This time he did not hesitate, and his well executed strike hit the post. His confidence growing, Oster attempted to chip the ball over Cech from the edge of the box and the Chelsea 'keeper was forced to scramble back to make a save. Half time arrive with Reading containing Chelsea comfortably and creating chances with good passing and movement.

All the good work of the first half was undone within five minutes of the re-start. Reading started off on the back foot. It appeared they were waiting to see how Chelsea were going to react and surrendered the initiative. That in itself was not a bad idea with Chelsea making two half time substitutions, but the defence switched off to allow Lampard to walk through the centre of the defence and slip the ball past Hahnemann on forty-seven minutes. The crowd were silenced and Reading stunned, but there was no reaction from Reading and a couple of minutes later Drogba found a sufficient room on the edge of the box to bend in a terrific strike which beat Hahnemann comfortably. The complexion of the game had now changed irrevocably and Chelsea kept possession and played with their customary confidence. Reading seemed unable to raise their game and Chelsea didn't need to as the game was played out in front of a subdued crowd. The referee's eagerness to dish out yellow cards may have taken the edge of Reading's game. With four players on yellow cards it tends to make players a little hesitant, and if you allow Chelsea time on the ball they will certainly make you suffer. Cisse's sending off for a second red card seemed harsh and made Reading's task even more difficult. Even so Chelsea were sufficiently respectful to resort to blatant time wasting. There was even a late flurry of half chances for an equaliser but Cech was not called upon to make a save.

Sidwell was welcomed back by the home crowd but was taken off at half time which could be indicative of his future at Chelsea. For Reading, his replacement Cisse, apart from being sent off was a little but off the pace of the game at times giving his man too much time in midfield. However he looks strong and skilful and will probably be more than adequate when he settles in. Bikey looked comfortable at the back and I would not be surprised to see him cover for Duberry again on Saturday. It was as usual a good team performance but I was particularly encouraged with the continued improvement of Hunt and Oster. Saturday will be another tough game, but it will be a tough game for Everton too.


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