Barclays Premier League

Reading lesson for Chelsea

2013-01-31 09:02
Rafael Benitez (File)

London - Adam Le Fondre struck twice in the final minutes as struggling Reading staged a remarkable recovery to clinch a 2-2 draw at home to Chelsea on Wednesday and move out of the Premier League relegation zone.

Rafael Benitez's visitors appeared on course for an easy victory at the Madejski Stadium that would have seen them extend their lead over fourth-placed Tottenham in the table following goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard.

But 'supersub' Le Fondre, introduced in the 67th minute by Royals manager Brian McDermott, turned the match upside down in a result that did nothing to boost unpopular interim Blues boss Benitez's stock with the Chelsea faithful.

Reading had barely threatened when Le Fondre struck in the 87th minute and he then clinched the point that lifted them out of the bottom three with a volley in the fifth minute of stoppage-time.

It was the striker's fifth goal in three league games and his latest match-winning double off the bench after a similar return secured victory at Newcastle in Reading's previous league game.

Had Chelsea not squandered two points, they would have opened up a commanding six-point lead over Tottenham Hotspur and closed the gap on second-placed Manchester City to just four points.

But they only had themselves to blame for the poor marking that meant Reading had three unmarked players at the far post when Le Fondre struck the equaliser.

Chelsea had edged the opening exchanges in terms of possession but struggled to create a meaningful early opening with Fernando Torres too often lacking in support in his role as the spearhead of the Chelsea attack.

Reading, who announced the signing of striker Nick Blackman from Sheffield United before kick-off, were happy to soak up the early pressure without troubling Ross Turnbull, deputising once again for the injured Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal.

And they were punished when Chelsea finally clicked into gear on the stroke of half-time to claim the goal their superiority deserved.

Fernando Torres and Mata had started to link up more effectively and they combined with Torres collecting a pass from his Spain team-mate before picking out Mata's run into the area with a neat chipped pass that set up the midfielder's angled left foot finish.

The goal ensured Reading were forced to abandon their tactic of containment but they again struggled to make headway after the break as Benitez's side grew in authority.

Oscar almost produced a spectacular second goal 10 minutes after the restart with an acrobatic volley after collecting Lampard's chipped pass.

And the pair were involved again in the build-up to Lampard's strike that appeared to have settled the game.

Lampard, revelling in the space he was now finding in central midfield, surged forward before playing in Oscar who tried to find Torres only for Reading left-back Ian Harte to intervene with a last-ditch clearance.

Unfortunately for the home side, their defending was less effective from the resulting corner with Lampard rising unchallenged to head in Mata's cross.

Chelsea were cruising through the final stages but Le Fondre lifted Reading with an excellent finish from Hope Akpan's threaded pass three minutes from time to set up an astonishing finale.

Read more on:    chelsea  |  reading  |  english premiership  |  soccer
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