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Chelsea 1 - 0 Reading


BlueLion.

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Chelsea F.C. 1 - 0 Reading

Wednesday 30 January 2008, Premier League, Matchday 24, Stamford Bridge Stadium, London

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Michael Ballack's first half header was enough to see off a resilient Reading side at Stamford Bridge.


The German international's third league goal ensured that Chelsea remained four points behind league leaders Manchester United who beat Portsmouth thanks to two Cristiano Ronaldo goals whilst Arsenal defeated Newcastle United 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium. Three points for the FA Cup holders confirms Chelsea's position as the Premier League's form team after winning nine consecutive matches, equalling a club record.

With Juliano Belletti suspended, it was the Portuguese full back Ferreira who deputised. Michael Ballack returned from injury to replace Steven Sidwell, whilst Nicolas Anelka made his first start at Stamford Bridge for the West London outfit. Reading had no fresh injury concerns, though Dave Kitson was still out. John Oster returned to the starting line-up.

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The result was in little doubt throughout the game, although with just a one-goal lead, Chelsea were in a dangerous situation with Reading looking effective at dead ball scenarios. Nevertheless, faultless defensive performances by captain Claude Makelele, Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho resulted in three points in Avram Grant's 30th fixture in charge of the club. Whilst the result implies the game was a tight affair, it was far from it, with both teams creating good chances.

Reading started the game with a good attacking energy, and John Oster's near post corner required strong concentration from captain Makelele, who headed away excellently under pressure from two opposing players. But after a prolonged spell of possession from the home side which allowed their starting eleven to become more comfortable with their passing, it was Chelsea in the ascendancy, although it took them twenty minutes to register their first real effort on goal.

Kalifa Cisse, playing at centre half, hacked down Shaun Wright-Phillips just outside the box. Michael Ballack unleashed a right foot curler but Marcus Hahnemann showed good goalkeeping to take the ball expertly, albeit with little difficulty. The American was tested again merely sixty seconds later when Joe Cole cut inside his man and launched a rasping drive goalwards. Travelling through a lot of bodies the goalkeeper was unsighted by made a fine reaction save to palm the ball away.

Wright-Phillips was presented with the best chance of the game when he skipped over the challenge of Reading skipper Graeme Murty, before shooting straight at Hahnemann who had raced out of his goal to prevent the England winger, who was called up into Fabio Capello's first international squad.

Joe Cole was causing no end of problems for the Reading defence, and a number of his crosses had found the Reading goalkeeper relatively insecure, with Hahnemann left flapping at a teasing whipped ball from the wing. Cole went close with a cross-cum-shot moments later after his ball into the box took a devilish deflection and bounced inches wide.

But Chelsea did not wait much longer to make the breakthrough. Right back Paulo Ferreira continued his supporting run after he was fed by Joe Cole and crossed exquisitely into the box, where Michael Ballack's thunderous header from 11 yards left Hahnemann grasping at thin air. A truly spectacular header from the German from an inviting cross from the wing.

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The second half was a different story as a more attacking mentality saw Reading go close on a number of occasions. But Chelsea were the first to threaten as Joe Cole burst forward leaving Nicky Shorey for dead. However he dragged his shot wide from a narrow angle with Nicolas Anelka a toe-end away from putting the hosts two up.

Reading were creating chances if not clear-cut, with Hunt's freekick tamely wide and an effort from defender Cisse from twenty yards always rising over Cech's goal. Hunt, who had gained infamy following his collision with Petr Cech the previous campaign, had found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse from the Chelsea faithful at the Matthew Harding End and had been left red-faced when he crashed over the advertising hoardings and into the Chelsea fans in the West Stand.

Anelka headed weakly at Hahnemann with fifteen minutes remaining after a poor performance by Leroy Lita was epitomised when he failed to anticipate where Kevin Doyle's cushioned header would land. Chelsea had an excellent opportunity to double their lead late on after Ferreira and Ballack combined once more, although the Chelsea number 13 headed wide. Chelsea hung on to claim the three points and make it a monumental 75 unbeaten home league games.
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Match Fact : Chelsea are unbeaten at home in seventy five league games at home in the Premier League

Chelsea: Cech (6), Ferreira (8), Alex (6), Carvalho (7), Bridge (6), Wright-Phillips (7) (Sidwell (6)), Makelele (8), Ballack (7), Joe Cole (7), Anelka (6), Malouda (5) (Pizarro (6)).
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Sinclair, Ben-Haim.

Goals: Ballack 32.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Cisse, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Oster (Matejovsky 81), Harper, Hunt, Convey (Rosenior 85), Lita, Doyle.
Subs Not Used: Federici, De la Cruz, Bennett.

Attendance: 41,171

Referee: Mike Dean

Man of the Match : Paulo Ferreira

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Edited by BlueLion
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