BEIRUT

Football

Chelsea come from behind to beat Reading

Torres celebrates after scoring. (AFP/Adrian Dennis)

BEIRUT: Chelsea defeated new boys Reading 4-2 Wednesday in an enthralling contest that both sides led at times, with the hosts eventually scoring three second-half goals to erase a 2-1 Reading lead.

A Frank Lampard penalty had put Chelsea in front before they were pegged back by Reading who scored twice in four minutes through Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Guthrie to take a halftime lead.

An Adam Federici blunder gifted Chelsea parity, and the Champions League winners added a further two goals through Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic to seal victory.

Chelsea next travel to Newcastle Saturday looking to make it three wins from their opening three matches, while Reading travel to Sunderland. Chelsea’s title campaign has been given the easiest of starts, with their opening two matches seeing the Blues face both Wigan and Reading.

The former resulted in a routine win for the Blues, with Ivanovic and Lampard sealing Wigan’s fate with a quick fire brace within six minutes. A win against Reading Wednesday would see Chelsea top the league table, and in the process, set an early pace for the chasing pack.

Reading, on the other hand, seemed destined to be subjected to a baptism of fire, with manager Brian McDermott entering unchartered territory in what is his debut Premier League season.

From the start Chelsea set the pace, with frontmen Eden Hazard and Juan Mata tearing the Reading backline to shreds. With just six minutes gone, the Blues carved two wonderful chances.

First, Hazard was played in on goal by a precise Mata through ball, but the Belgian failed to trouble Reading ’keeper Adam Federici with his weaker left foot, scuffing his effort wide of the target.

Mata once again used his masterful passing to penetrate the Reading rearguard, this time setting Ramirez on his way. After the Brazilian had cut inside a Reading defender he inexplicably chose to shoot, with the unmarked Fernando Torres screaming for the ball to be squared. Ramirez’s tame effort was saved comfortably by Federici, with Torres heaving his arms in the air in discontent.

Chelsea were beginning to surge forward at will, with Hazard in particular proving too much for the Reading defense, and on 17 minutes the crafty winger made it three assists in two games after he was bundled over in the box by Chris Gunter.

Up stepped Lampard, to bury the spot kick to Federici’s right.

Reading at this point were struggling to come to terms with the rigors of the game, but then in a twist that equaled Kevin Spacey’s “The Usual Suspects” revelation, in which he disclosed that he and Kaizer Soze were indeed one and the same, the match turned on its head in an extraordinary sequence of events.

After being utterly adrift for the opening periods, Reading struck with one fell swoop through new signing Russian Pavel Pogrebnyak, who pounced on Jobi McAnuff’s innocuous cross, to glance his header past the helpless Petr Cech.

Before they had time to properly celebrate the breakthrough, Reading unbelievably took the lead just four minutes later, following a howler from goalkeeper Cech.

A tepid Danny Guthrie free kick was spilled by the Czech ’keeper, who got across the ball only to turn it in with his legs.

The goals seemed to infuse the visitors with renewed confidence, and they bossed the contest, comfortably seeing out the half with their lead intact.

The second half would mirror the early goings of the first, with the hosts enjoying long spells of possession.

Reading though were comfortable in their 4-5-1 formation, and stemmed wave after wave of the blue tide that besieged them.

So it remained until the 68th minute when a Federici error cost his team dearly, as the Australian ’keeper turned a speculative Gary Cahill effort into his own net.

The mistake sparked a chain reaction, with Reading conceding a further two goals to once again change the course of the game.

Chelsea’s third goal came after some dazzling ballwork, with three first touch passes slicing open Reading’s backline. After Mata had found Ashley Cole on the edge of the box, the left back easily squared the ball to the unmarked Torres to tap in to make it 3-2.

Replays showed the Spaniard was offside, but that did little to quell the Chelsea faithful’s elation.

Five added minutes of stoppage time seemed to offer Reading a lifeline, but would instead prove to have the adverse effect when Federici left his goal line to join his teammates up field for a corner.

After dealing with the set piece, Chelsea quickly set out on the counter, with Hazard bombarding down the flank to play in Ivanovic to place the ball into an empty net to make the score 4-2 to Chelsea, in a result which flattered the London side.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 23, 2012, on page 15.

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