Chelsea edge Reading in six-goal thriller at Stamford Bridge
Posted by sportainmentblog
Frank Lampard put the Blues ahead from the penalty spot in the 18th minute after Chris Gunter had felled Eden Hazard in the box.
But Pavel Pogrebnyak drew the Royals level on 25 minutes with a superb header from Garath McCleary’s cross and Reading fans were in dreamland four minutes later when Petr Cech let in Danny Guthrie’s free-kick.
But the Blues’ blushes were saved with a goalkeeping clanger by Adam Federici – who had also made a howler against Stoke on Saturday. This time, the Reading keeper failed to save a swerving long-range effort from Gary Cahill on 69 minutes.
Fernando Torres then put Chelsea ahead with nine minutes remaining, tapping in Ashley Cole’s cross, although replays showed he was offside.
As Reading went in desperate search of an equaliser, Federici came up for Ian Harte’s corner in injury time and Chelsea hit the Royals on the break, with Branislav Ivanovic slotting home from close range to seal a remarkable comeback.
The victory put Chelsea top of the table for the first time since November 2010, a fact pointed out by manager Roberto Di Matteo ahead of a fixture brought forward due to the European champions’ involvement in the UEFA Super Cup.
But the Italian will be concerned at how hard his side made it for themselves against the Championship winners, who had several other chances to score.
For 25 minutes, it was the Chelsea show, with Hazard showing the skills that on Tuesday saw Di Matteo dub him an “artist”.
The Belgian had taken less than two minutes to make his mark on his league debut at Wigan and it could have been the same story on Wednesday had he not screwed Juan Mata’s through ball wide.
Hazard, Mata and Ramires were constantly on the move behind Torres and more fine football saw the latter force a good stop from Federici.
Torres went close to a superb solo goal before Chelsea inevitably took the lead in the 18th minute, the skills of Hazard again the inspiration.
The £32million man tormented Gunter to distraction and when the leg was dangled, he hit the deck, giving referee Lee Mason no choice but to award the penalty, Lampard giving Federici no chance from the spot.
If Chelsea thought the floodgates would open, they were given the rudest possible awakening as Reading amazingly turned the game on its head in the space of four minutes.
Pogrebnyak equalised with a brilliant header, getting in front of Cahill to glance home McCleary’s cross.
But the visitors had an almighty howler from Cech to thank for going in front, the goalkeeper embarrassingly allowing Guthrie’s powerful free-kick to spin off his body and into the net.
John Terry powered over a header from Mata’s free-kick and Hazard’s blockbuster was also too high but Chelsea had lost the initiative and had lost their way at the back.
Terry was being given a torrid time on his 550th club appearance and conceded a free-kick that Harte whipped in and Alex Pearce somehow failed to connect with.
Torres could also have done better than glance wide a pinpoint Hazard cross on the stroke of half-time.
Ivanovic blazed over after the restart but Chelsea were struggling to penetrate a wall of yellow as Di Matteo sent on Oscar for Ramires before the hour mark.
Jem Karacan became the first player booked for upending Mata and Pogrebnyak quickly followed for tripping Cole but the home side were just as ragged.
They were rushing what few shots they had, Hazard’s blocked effort typical of their floundering, and Di Matteo took action again when he threw on Daniel Sturridge for John Obi Mikel in the 68th minute.
It immediately paid off in unexpected fashion thanks to another goalkeeping howler from Federici, who palmed Cahill’s swerving 25-yarder into his own net.
Reading sent on Adam Le Fondre for Karacan and Noel Hunt for Pogrebnyak but the force was with Chelsea and Mata screwed wide before they completed their own comeback thanks to a huge slice of luck.
The build-up was the equal of anything they had produced all evening but Torres appeared clearly offside tapping home Cole’s low cross. However it was allowed to stand by Mason and his assistants.
Reading went for broke late on, with Hal Robson-Kanu replacing McCleary and Federici bombing forward and they were caught out when Hazard squared for Ivanovic to tap home.
Chelsea Team Statistics Reading
4 Goals 2
1 1st Half Goals 2
7 Shots on Target 4
14 Shots off Target 2
6 Blocked Shots 1
1 Corners 5
13 Fouls 14
0 Offsides 0
0 Yellow Cards 2
0 Red Cards 0
88.9 Passing Success 67.5
13 Tackles 10
84.6 Tackles Success 80
71.6 Possession 28.4
51.8 Territorial Advantage 48.2
651 Total Passes 234
20 Total Crosses 20
131 Lost Balls 150
71 Recoveries 57
75.2 1st Half Poss. 24.8
71.7 2nd Half Poss. 28.3
- Chelsea rally against Reading (fifa.com)
- Offside Torres ensures Chelsea escape with the win (espn.co.uk)
- Chelsea come from behind to beat Reading (dailystar.com.lb)
- Chelsea Fight Back, Down Reading 4-2 – ESPN (soccernet.espn.go.com)