Newly promoted Reading gave Chelsea a scare at Stamford Bridge Wednesday night, pushing the European Champions to an exciting match that saw Chelsea come out on top 4-2. An 18th minute penalty from Frank Lampard sent the Blues ahead before Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Guthrie both scored within five minutes of each other to give Reading a 2-1 lead after half an hour. Gary Cahill would equalise in the 69th minute, and Fernando Torres would net the winner on 81 minutes with a goal in controversial circumstances. Branislav Ivanovic would add a fourth in stoppage time.
Reading made two changes to the side that drew with Stoke on the weekend, bringing Midfielders Jem Karacan and Garath McCleary in for Hal Robson-Kanu and Adam LeFrondre. Roberto Di Matteo handed Eden Hazard his home debut, but made two changes to the side that faced Wigan. Ramires returned from illness and was introduced in place of Ryan Betrand, and Gary Cahill started in place of David Luiz, who was nursing a knee injury.
The Stamford Bridge faithful were keen to see how the £32 million pound man would do, and he didn’t fail to impress. In the 18th minute, Hazard wriggled free of two defenders and enticed Chris Gunter to dive in, which the Reading fullback happily did. The result was the second penalty in two matches won by the Belgian, and Lampard stepped up and dispatched it with his normal aplomb.
However, Brian McDermott did not send his side out just to park the bus, and despite seeing little of the ball in the first half an hour, Reading got their reward for positive play on 25 minutes when Pogrebnyak ghosted past Cahill to head a McCleary cross past Petr Cech to get the equaliser. Just moments later, Cech failed to cover himself in glory when Guthrie’s free kick from the left struck his lower body rather than his hands and deflected into the net, sending the Reading fans into raptures.
Chelsea weren’t finished yet, and John Terry had a chance to equalise from a Juan Mata free kick, but failed to get his head over the ball. Just before the half, Eden Hazard picked out Torres with a brilliant cross from the right, only for the Spaniard to head wide when he really should have hit the target.
After the half, nothing much changed with Reading looking confident and organized and Chelsea looking rattled and lacking the quality of the final ball. Clearly unhappy with the direction of his side, Di Matteo made two substitutions, handing Oscar his home debut for Ramires, and Daniel Sturridge came on for John Mikel Obi. Sturridge, in particular, pushed wider right and began to give Reading a threat on the right to worry about.
However, the equaliser came from a less than likely source when Gary Cahill ventured forward with acres of space and let fly with a 30-yard strike that dipped and swerved and bamboozled Adam Federici, who let the ball squirm under his body and into the net. Chelsea’s confidence grew, and Sturridge let fly with a curling effort after cutting inside, but fired over the bar.
The match-winning goal, however, was not without its controversy. After a brilliant piece of one-touch play initiated by Torres, Ashley Cole was played into acres of space down the left and squared to Torres, who appeared to be in an offside position, to stroke home. However, the linesman’s flag stayed down, and the goal was allowed to stand, and Chelsea’s blushes were spared.
Reading felt aggrieved and began to press the action looking to equalise. From a resulting corner in stoppage time, Federici came up to attack, but the ball was cleared only as far as Torres. The striker controlled the ball well and played Hazard clear down the right and racing on an empty net with one defender back. Rather than take the shot himself, the Belgian expertly spotted the run of Ivanovic to the far post and squared the ball for an easy tap-in and sealing the three points.