Football: Despite the events of that momentous evening in Munich just over three months ago, Chelsea remain a club with much to prove.
Chelsea, the champions of Europe, and winners of the FA Cup, have come into this season looking to make amends for their failure to reclaim the league
title they last won in 2010.
The scoreline may not suggest it, but on the evidence of this disjointed performance against a determined Reading side, Roberto di Matteo has a little work to do if his side are to challenge the dominance of the Manchester clubs.
Credit must go to the spirit and resolve of Reading’s players, who never gave up all evening in this enjoyable encounter at Stamford Bridge.
They were dealt a cruel blow when Chelsea took the lead late in the match with a goal which should have been ruled out for offside. Fernando Torres’s effort, on 80 minutes, was allowed to stand by referee Lee Mason.
Deep into injury time, Chelsea added a fourth through Branislav Ivanovic, to add to earlier goals from Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill.
“We are pleased with six points after two matches and we are very happy with the performance against Reading,” said the Italian manager.
“We attacked well and created several chances and the players looked like they were enjoying themselves.”
With a number of high-profile attacking players added to the squad, di Matteo added: “Keeping a good balance is going to be paramount in winning games this season. It is going to be a challenge.”
Reading’s players fell short on the evening, but won praise from their manager Brian McDermott, who was critical of the decision which allowed Torres’s goal to stand. “We didn’t deserve to lose that and I am really disappointed for the players,” said the Reading boss. “I am gutted because the linesman has got that wrong. We definitely should have got at least a point.”
Chelsea took the lead on 17 minutes when Lampard converted a penalty kick after Hazard was tripped by full-back Chris Gunter. Chelsea’s goal was reward for persisting with their early efforts. Hazard, along with Spanish playmaker Juan Mata, played crucial roles as the home side dominated the league newcomers with some incisive approach play.
Di Matteo made two changes to the side that comfortably beat Wigan Athletic over the weekend. David Luiz missed out with a knee injury with the return of Ramires prompting Ryan Bertrand to be dropped to the bench.
Earlier in the match, it was Ramires, one of the stars of last season, who had Chelsea’s best chance of the match after combining well with Mata and full-back Ivanovic. His curling effort was well-saved by Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici.
However, on 24 minutes, Reading pulled level impressively. Winger Gareth McCleary created the effort after beating Ashley Cole on the right wing, exchanging passes with midfielder Jem Karacan, before delivering superbly for striker Pavel Pogrebnyak. The Russian striker pre-empted the cross, beating Cahill to the ball, before glancing his header over goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Five minutes later, Chelsea were in further trouble when Reading took the lead through Danny Guthrie. The visitors won a free-kick outside Chelsea’s penalty area, which was struck firmly by the former Newcastle United player. Cech spilled what looked like would be a relatively comfortable save and as the ball squirmed out of his clutches, he could do little to prevent it from crossing the goal-line.
Chelsea were equally poor in the second half and though Reading’s players were clearly tiring, they remained a threat. On 56 minutes, big money signing Oscar was brought on to inject some much needed drive, with Daniel Sturridge joining him soon after. Chelsea, however, showed little improvement. By then Hazard had faded, and Mata showed flashes of quality but nothing more.
Cahill, however, atoned for his earlier mistake by drawing his side level on 69 minutes after he broke forward with the ball at his feet.
His shot from 30 yards bounced wickedly in front of Federici, who had misjudged the trajectory of the ball. It flew off the turf and over the Reading goalkeeper.
Torres put his side ahead when he finished off a neat move with 10 minutes of the match remaining.
However, the Spaniard was in an offside position when the ball was played to him by Cole. Ivanovic added a fourth when Chelsea broke, catching out Federici, who had come forward for a corner kick. The Serbian tapped the ball in from close range to seal the victory.
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.