Monday, October 23, 2006

CANNON FODDER Reading 0-4 Arsenal

The newspapers will have you believe that Arsenal were mesmerising on their way to an easy victory and that Reading simply can't live with teams of that ilk. That doesn't quite tell the whole story at the end of a difficult week.

Missing three key first teamers - Murty, Convey and Kitson would all surely have started if fit - exposed our chronic lack of strength in depth and the events of the past week when Chelsea levelled accusation after accusation appeared to rid Reading of the edge that had seen us compete so well in the Premiership so far. Our players seemed afraid to put a foot in and mix it up; this was yet again a case of trial by media as the television cameras descended on the Madejski Stadium yet again and you have to say that the Reading team seemed to be on their very best behaviour.

It would be churlish and a diservice not to pay tribute to Arsenal's quick passing and high tempo which simply destroyed Reading, but equally you must say that our own passing was dire and that service for Doyle and Long was practically zero. Floyd on Football would go so far as to venture that this was the worst Reading performance since the equally shambolic display at Wigan on the final day of the 2004/05 season. That was the last ocassion on which Reading were beaten by more than the odd goal and going by this tepid offering it is a feeling we might have to get used to over the coming weeks until key players come back into the team. Put simply, Reading's brawn just couldn't live with Arsenal's brain.

And it took less than a minute for their philosophical, deep thinking football to penetrate. Fabregas eased past Harper - who like his fellow ex-Arsenal central midfield partner failed to show up for work against his old employers - and his cutback found HENRY who finished typically. Reading, for all their faults yesterday, could never be accused of giving up and almost hit back with a Seol thunderbolt parried by cheap German pornstar Jens Lehmann who had unhelpfully wagged his finger at Hunt as our much-maligned winger dared to come with 2 feet of the grumpy Arsenal shot-stopper. For the rest of a first half which had all the tempo of a pre-season friendly the two sets of supporter entertained themselves by exchanging banter, much of it at the expense of the Chelsea manager who presumably enjoys having his name sung at matches which his own team aren't even involved in.

Arsenal led by two before the break - HLEB on the end of an incisive move to smash a rising drive past Hahnemann - and that was basically that. Reading were shambolic at times with their passing, Ulises De La Cruz was substituted at half time to spare him more embarassment. Shane Long looked little boy lost up front as he gamely chased every long pass down the channels which was seemingly the basis of a so-called Reading game plan. In the middle of the park, Fabregas was given the freedom of Berkshire; a humbling reality check this must have been for one Steven Sidwell who spoke hopefully before the match of one day being an Arsenal player again.

VAN PERSIE finished another flowing move five minutes or so into the second half and as the crowd slumbered through what remained of this bumped-up trianing match the only remaining moment of any real excitement occurred when the otherwise excellent Hahnemann tore out of his to pull down Fabregas as Ingimarsson was caught short for what was an obvious penalty, duly converted by HENRY. Reading stuck at it, which is all you can say positively of our performance and Little and Oster added a late glimpse of some quality but by this stage it was effectively a phoney war. Indeed, it was Arsenal who looked more likely to have the final say, an outstretched Hahnemann arm prevented Rosicky from applying the formality of a finishing touch and was the best of several excellent saves from one of precious few Reading players to distinguish themself.

Reading: Hahnemann, De La Cruz (Gunnarsson, HT), Shorey, Ingimarsson, Sonko, Seol (Oster, 77), Sidwell, Harper, Hunt, Doyle, Long (Little, 73). Subs not used: Stack, Lita.

Floyd's Favourite: Hahnemann. Two or three top draw saves kept the score count down to one hand.


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