Reading 2-2 Chelsea: Benitez on brink after injury-time collapse
A superb cameo from Adam Le Fondre sparked a remarkable late fightback as the Blues let a two-goal lead slip and saw more pressure piled on their interim manager
By Tom McKeown
Juan Mata grabbed the opener, driving home from close range after a superb through-ball from Fernando Torres, before Lampard belted a header into the top corner halfway through the second half only for Le Fondre to hit twice in three minutes to stun the London side.
Brian McDermott made seven changes from the FA Cup win over Sheffield United, with Pavel Pogrebnyak returning to the starting line-up after being rested. Ryan Bertrand replaced the suspended Eden Hazard for Chelsea, Cesar Azpilicueta and Juan Mata also coming in at the expense of John Terry and Marko Marin.
The away side started to control the flow of the game after a turgid start, keeping possession for long periods, but were unable to make a quick impact on the Reading defence.
Ashley Cole blasted a long-range effort over the bar in the visitors’ first half-chance of the game, before Torres was shut out by Adrian Mariappa and Federici after a looping ball caused problems for the Reading defence.
Frank Lampard had a shot blocked as Chelsea continued to press, but Torres was penalised later on for clipping Mariappa after the defender sliced a simple clearance.
Gary Cahill then wasted a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock from a Lampard free kick, failing to connect with the ball when unmarked inside the penalty area as the missed chances started to mount up.
Cole blasted another speculative effort way off target, with Chelsea looking thoroughly out of idea heading into the break but, with with practically the last kick of the half the away side took the lead.
Torres collected the ball and scooped a delightful pass into the path of Mata, who fired the ball first time low past Federici.
Oscar should have made it two just five minutes in the second half when he sprung the offside trap to meet Lampard’s floated ball, but the youngster opted for an acrobatic finish when he had plenty of time to take a touch in the box.
Chelsea were not to rue the missed opportunity for long though as Lampard rose highest to meet Mata’s corner delivery to double his side’s lead and seemingly confirm all three points.
As the half went on, Reading continued to spurn their own rare opportunities with Ross Turnbull untested heading into the final 10 minutes.
But that record was not to last long as second-half substitute Le Fondre latched on to a through-ball from Hope Akpan to notch what looked like a consolation with the hosts first shot on target.
Ramires then forced a fine stop from Federici 30 yards out, before Le Fondre was there to equalise with a first-time volley from the edge of the area to send the home crowd into raptures and pile further pressure on Chelsea’s interim boss Rafael Benitez.
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