Reading 1 – 2 Chelsea

Match reports

The Independent, Conrad Leach: “It usually takes decades to build up an enmity on the scale that now exists between these two teams, but in their case it only took one match. That was last October, when Stephen Hunt accidentally collided with Petr Cech, his knee hitting the Chelsea goalkeeper in the head. It left Cech with a fractured skull and led to lingering recriminations. Cech was also out for three months and returned with the skull cap he wears in every game. To show what this victory meant for Mourinho, you only had to see him pump his fist at the final whistle to realise memories of the Cech incident are still fresh.”

Daily Telegraph, Oliver Brown: “At a stroke Jose Mourinho ensured that Chelsea’s return to Reading would be remembered not for Petr Cech or Stephen Hunt, but for his own tactical inspiration. Enmities were simmering at the Madejski Stadium last night, with Chelsea supporters well recalling Hunt’s skull-breaking challenge on the Czech goalkeeper 10 months ago, but Mourinho brushed aside the sub-plots as he transformed an unlikely first-half deficit into a galvanising win.”

The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “There was real satisfaction to be had in success, not least because Cech’s mistake had contributed to Reading taking the lead. The Czech still wears the protective helmet demanded by the injury he suffered here some 10 months ago, with memories of that furious encounter – there were two dismissals and as many Chelsea goalkeepers carried off on stretchers that Saturday night – still lingering. This game was played to an under-current of antipathy, the occasion punctuated as it was by a flurry of yellow cards.”

The Times, Martin Samuel: “There are many that will never see the greatness in Lampard but, fortunately, Mourinho is not among them. He picks him just about every week and the logic behind this was made plain last night. Lampard gets into goalscoring positions like no other midfield player and his charge into Reading’s penalty area – almost to the edge of the six-yard box – changed the match. Pizarro won the first header, Drogba the second, but it was Lampard that followed the loose ball to journey’s end before slipping it past Marcus Hahnemann.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jones: “Going into the trip to Anfield on Sunday, there is plenty to work on but Mourinho will be relieved to leave this difficult venue with all three points in the bag, and a plethora of attacking options as Pizarro, Drogba and Kalou again impressed.”

The highlights

Click here for extended high quality video highlights from Virgin Media.

The good

  1. Another win. Obviously the title is not won in August, but with Manchester United dropping more points at Portsmouth the gap is already four after just two games. Not to be sniffed at when you consider how close the title race is likely to be come May 2008. It was satisfying to hear United fans ringing in to BBC Five Live’s 606 programme to whine and moan, and also to admit that they won last season’s championship because of our injury problems. Some of them have already hit the panic button.
  2. Jose Mourinho’s substitutions. Mourinho has few peers when it comes to making tactical and personnel changes in an effort to win games from losing positions. The half-time introduction of Jon Obi Mikel and Claudio Pizarro, in place of Steve Sidwell and Paulo Ferreira respectively, changed the game. The injury to Ricardo Carvalho forced Glen Johnson to play centre-back and Shaun Wright-Phillips right-back. (It’s odd that players asked to fill in at right-back – Michael Essien, Lassana Diarra, and now Wright-Phillips – often perform better than either Ferreira or Johnson.) Pizarro played down the centre with Didier Drogba in what was effectively a front four.
  3. Frank Lampard. “There are many that will never see the greatness in Lampard” – Martin Samuel in Times Online’s match report. Don’t we know it. In the first half Steve Sidwell seemed to play in advance of Lampard, which nullified Lampard’s goal threat. Mourinho’s half-time changes, particularly the introduction of Obi Mikel, allowed Lampard more freedom to get forward and he duly obliged with a trademark goal in the 47th minute. Drogba scored a cracking 25-yarder three minutes later, and Reading never really recovered. Fans who attack Lampard’s performances based purely on their preconceived prejudices should be force-fed a large slice of humble pie.
  4. Claudio Pizarro. Looks very much the quintessential Premier League striker. Based on what we’ve seen of him so far we need not worry quite so much about Didier Drogba’s participation in next year’s African Cup of Nations.

The bad

  1. The defence without John Terry. Match of the Day’s Alan Hansen highlighted some atrocious defending on our part in the first half: the amount of space and time gifted Reading attackers was frightening. I suppose we will always miss one of the world’s best defenders, and the lack of a decent right-back doesn’t help, but it would be nice if one day we could stop worrying about injuries to Terry. Perhaps Alex is the answer?
  2. Our first half performance. Like many of last season’s games, the first 45 minutes was poor and the second a great deal better. We were fortunate to go in at half-time trailing by a single goal, it could easily have been 2-0 or 3-0 to Reading. For the umpteenth time Mourinho worked his magic during the break and the players turned the game around, but I’d like to see more consistent performances over 90 minutes.
  3. Injury to Ricardo Carvalho. The Portuguese picked up a groin strain after hitting a shot from 30 yards. Terry’s return to training offsets his loss. Hopefully we will see the two of them back together before long. They are by far our most dependable centre-back pairing.

Man of the Match

For his performance over 90 minutes, and for the aplomb he showed when asked to play right wing-back, Shaun Wright-Phillips.

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