Saturday, October 14, 2006

ROCKY Reading 0-1 Chelsea

Chelsea are conclusive proof that you can buy titles, buy matches and perhaps - on the evidence of the appaling Mike Riley's eccentric whistle blowing last night - referees but you can't buy class; which is something they will never have under their current arrogant regime.

In the end, it took more a twice deflected freekick for 250 million pounds of Chelsea 'talent' to beat our humble, hardworking team assembled for a mere fraction of that price. It was Lidl 0-1 Harrods, beaten but by no means disgraced over 90 minutes of so-called football which more resembled a Boxing match. Chelsea took a narrow points victory after a bruising bloody contest as Reading refused to be knocked to the canvass.

The bloodshed started with the opening exchanges as Steve Hunt chased a ball down the channel and his momentum took him into collision with the Chelsea 'keeper as Petr Cech slid out to take the ball. Hunt appeared to catch him with his knee and subsequent replays showed that, as he was going flat out there was little he could do to avoid what was an accidental impact. Cech ended up Royal Berkshire Hospital bound whilst the Chelsea management threw a hissy strop; Jose Mourinho - little more than a Portuguese Warnock - later accused Hunt of having deliberately crocked Cech, an incidental which the pouting twit suggested "could have killed" his goalkeeper. Steve Coppell, in his wisdom, suggested that he would welcome the FA having a look at an incident which anyone in their right mind could see was a total accident.

Chelsea replaced one expensive 'keeper with another, Cudicini took the gloves and to be totally frank he had precious little to do throughout. Not an awful lot of good football was played in all honesty; Reading were timid in the opening half hour before attempting a few jabs at Chelsea and the reigning champions of the Premiership played patient, tedious possession football unwilling to commit to all out attack throughout. This was far from entertaining fare and the closest we saw to a goal at each end before the stroke of half time were woodwork striking moments from Reading players; Ingimarsson glancing a cross onto his own crossbar and Doyle spinning like a top after good work by Hunt only to see his effort rebound back into play off the upright.

The winning goal and knock-out blow came on the stroke of half time. The wimpy, weedy looking Mike Riley is notorious for giving in to reputation and gave a freekick and a quite astonishing booking to the otherwise immaculate Sonko as fat Frank Lampard went crashing to the ground twenty-odd yards from goal following a collision with Superman's hip. The resultant freekick took two deflections, the last one off stand-in skipper INGIMARSSON who had taken the armband from the injured Murty. Unfortunate for Ivar and even harsher on Hahnemann who was utterly wrong-footed. Chelsea celebrated the goal as if it were the best ever scored and the Reading supporters angrily and loudly begged the question of midweek England flops Lampard and John Terry where were you on Wednesday night? That goal however was enough to give Chelsea the half time lead which they held onto and that was the last we saw from the title-buying champions as an attacking force.

For much of this game it looked like a good Championship side playing a disinterested Premiership team in a cup tie, for Reading put in a gritty and solid defensive performance without looking hugely capable in attack of worrying Chelsea whilst the visitors had precious little ambition to entertain or to attack following the fortunate goal they did score. The second half was, if anything, even more fractious as players squared up to each on more than one ocassion and Jon Obi Mikel was dismissed around the hour mark for hauling back Sonko, advancing from a defensive position. The fuss and bitter complaing which followed one of the precious few correct decisions made by Riley to give an inevitable second yellow summed up much of why the neutral dislikes this bitchy, ugly Chelsea side who win few admirers around europe.

With a man advantage - albeit for a mere twenty minutes before substitute Andre Bikey was dismissed rather fussily for a second booking - Reading pinned their opponents back on the ropes, forcing plenty of corners and peppering the Chelsea 18 yard box with crosses but we missed our talisman in Dave Kitson. Doyle, Lita and later Long worked hard but you felt that John Terry was too often getting a free head to the ball which was constantly pinging into the Chelsea box with what has to be said varying quality. Steve Sidwell fizzed a ferocious effort fractionally wide with Cudicini seemingly beaten but for all our honest endeavour, Reading forced precisely zero saves from three Chelsea 'keepers - the third of whom was John Terry himself for the final thirty seconds of injury time as Cudicini followed his colleague Cech to the RBH after being flattened by Sonko at one of several Reading corners.

Sadly, having knocked-out two Chelsea 'keepers we still had to take an unfortunate defeat on the chin but it was heads held high for us as Chelsea celebrated wildly at the end which can only be seen as a compliment to Reading's spirit, attitude, drive and endavour. There was a flashpoint right at the death as the Chelsea bench mirrored the cheating antics of their players - so brilliantly mocked by the Reading crowd's 'divers' mime - by refusing to return the ball for a Reading throw-in and a seething Kevin Dillon dived in. The incident was unusually well dealt with by Riley in conjunction with his forth official and a member of the Chelsea staff was banished from the touchline. Floyd on Football is only sorry that Jose Mourinho didn't take the hiding he so deserves in the melee.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty (Bikey, 36), Shorey, Ingimarsson, Sonko, Seol (Little, 64), Sidwell, Harper, Hunt, Doyle, Lita (Long, 73). Subs not used: Stack, Gunnarsson.

Floyd's Favourite: Sonko. Our own heavyweight kept Drogba in his pocket.


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