CHELSEA 4 vs READING 2
CHELSEA manager Roberto Di Matteo brushed off a row over an offside Fernando Torres goal as his side came from behind to edge a wildly entertaining ding-dong with Premier League newcomers Reading.
Goals from Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Guthrie stunned the European champions, after Frank Lampard’s penalty had put Chelsea in front, before Gary Cahill’s long-range shot drew the Blues level and set up a frantic climax.
Torres then tapped the home side ahead in controversial circumstances, and Branislav Ivanovic capped a second win from two games with a breakaway fourth, to leave Reading manager Brian McDermott fuming at the assistant referee.
“I’m gutted the linesman has got that decision wrong for the third goal,” he said. “It’s not been a good night for him and therefore it hasn’t been a good night for us.”
Di Matteo responded: “I haven’t seen it yet. I looked straight away at the linesman and he didn’t seem to be in any doubt.”
The Italian’s side, which was unrecognisable from the grinding, stoical wall that shut out Barcelona and Bayern Munich, instead attacked – and, more worryingly, defended – with the reckless abandon of Brazil.
“It’s going to be paramount, keeping a good balance in our team,” Di Matteo added.
“It’s all great and everyone wants to see a lot of flair play and attacking play, but to win games you have to have a good balance and that’s going to be the challenge.”
Chelsea’s first home game since winning the Champions League in May was billed as a glorious homecoming, every player introduced as “European champion”, and began in suitably one-sided fashion.
Hazard dragged a left-foot shot wide and Ramires saw an effort tipped away by Adam Federici before the former, their marquee £32m summer signing, lured Chris Gunter into a clumsy challenge and earned a 17th-minute penalty.
Lampard duly drilled home low and left, and Stamford Bridge sensed a rout, but within 11 minutes Reading turned the match on its head and historians started checking when the Royals had last beaten Chelsea in the league: March 1930.
First former Fulham striker Pogrebnyak beat Cahill to Garath McCleary’s early right-wing cross and glanced an exquisite header into the far corner; then Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech inexplicably fumbled Guthrie’s skimming free-kick into his own net.
“We are top of the league,” sang the visiting support and Reading stayed in front until the 69th minute, despite Di Matteo supplementing his attack with Oscar and Daniel Sturridge, when Cahill’s swerving drive eluded Federici a touch too easily.
McDermott responded by bringing on a second forward, but Chelsea had found a swagger and regained the lead nine minutes from time when Torres finished a sweeping move by tapping in Ashley Cole’s low cross from the left.
The Blues then showed no mercy deep into added time when, with the Reading goal vacant as Federici came up for a corner, Torres fed Hazard to scamper away and square unselfishly – his fourth assist in two games – for Ivanovic to finish.