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Reading 2-2 Chelsea


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Reading 2-2 Chelsea F.C.

Saturday 1 August 2009, Pre-season Friendly, Madejski Stadium, Reading.

Reading-OG.jpg

Alex Pearce heads beyond Adam Federici to hand Chelsea a share of the spoils.

A stoppage time own-goal by Alex Pearce handed Chelsea a draw at the Madejski Stadium in a keenly-contested encounter with Reading.

The Royals went ahead when Ashley Cole misjudged a high clearance, allowing Hal Robson-Kanu to shoot at Petr Cech's goal. The speculative effort fell into the path of Jimmy Kebe, who rounded Cech and lashed the ball beyond the despairing Branislav Ivanovic. The hosts took a shock 2-0 lead moments before the half-time break when Scott Davies powered home a low free-kick after Shane Long had been felled by John Terry.

Chelsea were not without their chances themselves, with both Terry and Ricardo Carvalho wasting decent set piece opportunities early on. However, substitute Salomon Kalou broke Reading's resistance with a brilliant finish following a stunning through-ball by John Mikel Obi, and the comeback was complete when Pearce headed beyond Adam Federici whilst under pressure from Alex to hand Chelsea a deserved draw.

Though at times the performance was relatively disappointing in comparison to Chelsea's endeavours in the United States, the Blues dominated for long periods of the game, and but for a brilliant performance by Federici in goal for the hosts, Chelsea could have ran out convincing winners against Brendan Rodgers' side. Nevertheless, Carlo Ancelotti will be delighted with the character shown by his squad to seal a draw in such dramatic fashion, and lively performances by goalscorer Kalou, Frank Lampard and substitute Florent Malouda will no doubt please the Chelsea coach.

And with the Community Shield clash against Manchester United a little over a week away, Ancelotti's starting line-up featured an impressive array of offensive and defensive talent. Branislav Ivanovic was preferred to José Bosingwa at right-back, whilst Ricardo Carvalho partnered John Terry at centre-back. Ashley Cole completed the back four, with Petr Cech between the posts for the Blues. Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba formed Chelsea's strike partnership, with Frank Lampard, Deco, Michael Essien and John Mikel Obi featuring in a diamond-shaped midfield.

Following minute's applause in appreciation of Sir Bobby Robson after his tragic death on Friday, it was Chelsea who began the stronger of the two teams, with Frank Lampard in particular excelling during the opening exchanges; almost finding Nicolas Anelka in space with a delicate chipped pass with just twenty seconds into the match. Lampard did manage to find the Frenchman with four minutes on the clock, but the Chelsea forward could only tamely shoot straight at the goalkeeper, before Lampard launched a thirty-yard drive that Federici did well to pluck from the air.

The Australian goalkeeper was enjoying a busy start to affairs, and was fortunate not to concede with just seven minutes played when John Terry headed over the bar from one of several Lampard corners. Anelka glanced wide moments later from a similar position, and the goalkeeper's handling hate to be adept to cope with a well-struck volley from Drogba, who did brilliantly to control the effort.

Anelka almost punished the goalkeeper for a moment of madness when he pounced on a loose touch by the Australian shotstopper, but after taking the ball wide in an effort to beat the Reading man at his near post, Royals' skipper Alex Pearce intervened and blocked the Frenchman's shot half a yard away from the goalline. Michael Essien - unusually subdued in terms of his own personal performance - then forced a decent save out of the Reading goalkeeper as he made amends for his earlier error, before the unthinkable happened - a Reading goal.

The hosts had been on the back foot for the majority of the half; their only effort smothered by Cech as he bravely dived as Shane Long's feet. The influential Jimmy Kebe was the goalscorer, capitalising on some hesitant Chelsea defending and some contentious officiating to round Cech and fire the home team ahead. The Mali international had looked offside by the time he had received the ball, but to the bemusement of the Chelsea rearguard, the linesman's flag remained stationary.

Chelsea will have felt aggrieved to be one behind - especially after Ryan Bertrand, on loan to Reading from the Blues, appeared to have tripped Deco in the area, and when Scott Davies put Reading 2-0 up on the stroke of half-time, a first defeat for Carlo Ancelotti looked on the cards. Shane Long had been fouled on the edge of the area by a combination of Carvalho and Terry, and Davies expertly fired home with a low effort that beat Cech's outstretched glove.

Florent Malouda, Alex da Costa and José Bosingwa entered the fray following the interval, replacing Deco, Ivanovic and Carvalho respectively. Deco had had a poor first half, and both Ivanovic and Carvalho had looked uncomfortable despite the relative lack of pressure from Reading. The introduction of Malouda did well to improve Chelsea's attacking exploits, but when Federici denied Lampard with a point-blank save after the Englishman had powered a header goalwards from Bosingwa's cross, one may have been forgiven for thinking it simply wasn't to be Chelsea's day.

The ineffective Drogba was replaced by Kalou after poking an effort wide after a gloriously-weighted pass from Mikel had given the Ivorian a perfect opportunity to give Chelsea a lifeline, but instead of powering a left-footed effort across the keeper, Drogba attempted a poke towards the near post with his right foot, despite an acute angle. Juliano Belletti came on for Essien and Daniel Sturridge replaced Anelka, who had been quiet in the second half.

Sturridge had two efforts saved by the goalkeeper, before Belletti's touch and shot inside the area were blocked. Lampard then showed his incredible quality with a clever back-heel into Malouda's path, but the Frenchman dragged his effort wide of the post. Bosingwa then forced another smart save out of the goalkeeper with less than three minutes remaining - Chelsea were looking desperately for a route back into the game. Belletti shot dreadfully high and wide before Malouda had an effort wide of the mark.

Enter Kalou; arguably the coolest man inside the stadium as he converted his one and only chance. Mikel's delicious through ball found the young Ivorian, and keeping his composure, he calmly slotted the ball beyond Federici's reach and into the bottom corner. And little over two minutes later, Chelsea were back on level terms, as Malouda's freekick was headed into his own goal by Royals captain Pearce, whilst under extreme pressure from Alex.

In reflection, Carlo Ancelotti will be happy with the character his side showed in the final minutes, and with a date with Manchester United to come, the Blues will take great heart from earning a deserved draw at the Madejski.

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The TalkChelsea.net Star Man award goes to...

JimmyKebe.jpg

Jimmy Kebe, Reading F.C.

Chelsea: Cech (Turnbull); Ivanovic (Bosingwa), Carvalho (Alex), Terry ©, A Cole; Mikel, Essien (Belletti), Deco (Malouda), Lampard; Anelka (Sturridge), Drogba (Kalou)

Reading: Federici; Rosenior, Pearce ©, Cisse, Bertrand; Gunnarsson (Bikey), Tabb (Harper), Davies (Mooney); Robson-Kanu (N Hunt), Long (Church), Kebe (Henry)

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