MATCH REPORT: 2006/2007 Season

19 August 2006: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: Kitson (43 mins), Sidwell (44 mins), Lita (55 mins).
Middlesbrough: Downing (11 mins), Yakubu (21 mins).
Half Time: 2-2
Attendance: 23,855

Pos Team P Pts GD
2 West Ham 1 3 +2
3 READING 1 3 +1
4 Everton 1 3 +1
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Ingimarsson, Sonko, Sidwell, Harper, Convey (Hunt 83), Ki-Hyeon (Gunnarsson 83), Doyle, Kitson (Lita 45). Subs Not Used: Stack, Oster.
Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Parnaby, Pogatetz, Riggott, Arca (Davies 45), Morrison (Johnson 84), Rochemback (Mendieta 68), Boateng, Downing, Viduka, Yakubu. Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Maccarone.
Reading: Sidwell.
Middlesbrough: Riggott, Rochemback, Boateng.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

The Royals staged a Premier class comeback to come from two goals behind to win their first ever top tier fixture in stunning fashion. Reading's Premier League debut was worth the very long wait as the Royals defeated Middlesbrough 3-2 in a thoroughly absorbing game. In front of a full house, and plenty of media attention, Reading initially made a very nervous start. Despite fielding the same side that wrapped up the Championship title at the end of last season - with the only exception being Soel Ki-Hyeon in for the injured Glen Little - we struggled to get going. Soel was to have a first class debut throughout, but the nerves were clearly on show across the rest of the side. Sonko, Sidwell, Shorey and Murty all went on to have excellent games but were all guilty of gifting possession.

The visitors seemed much more comfortable in the opening exchanges as Reading passes failed to reach targets and the defence made a number of mistakes under pressure. Middlesbrough took full advantage of Reading's stage fright. moving ahead after just eleven minutes. A cross from the right saw Murty drawn into the middle and Downing free at the far post to make it 0-1. A couple of Boateng free-kicks caused problems, with Hahnemann making a good save, before Reading conceeded another free-kick on the edge of the area that was driven low and on target. Hahnemann failed to hold it and it bounced out of his arms allowing Yakubu to prod it home and double the 'Boro lead. The visiting fans found their voice with chants of "Easy" and "Are you Sunderland in disguise?" - the Reading team were soon to silence that and let the home fans return the exact same chants.

The second goal saw Reading eventually find their feet. Like we've seen so many times in the past under manager Steve Coppell, Reading failed to give-up and instead stuck to the task and eventually were playing the same football from last season - with the same effect. Passes were starting to find targets, the defence tightened up, Middlesbrough were being quickly closed down and Boro were on the back-foot under heavy Reading pressure. Soel put in two excellent free-kicks from the left that nearly sneaked in the near past before Reading got the breakthrough. Soel put in a low cross from the right, after shaking off the full-back, and Kitson scored from his second touch well inside the box to secure Reading's first ever Premiership goal. Just a minute later and Reading were deservedly level with the second Premiership goal when the ball was crossed back by Ingimarsson on the left to Sidwell in the middle to drive home. The goal sparked wild celebrations as the Madejski Stadium went mental. Steve Sidwell picked up a booking in the choas after the goal - I can only assume for over enthusiastic celebrations.

After the kick-off following the equaliser Dave Kitson was immediately clattered to the ground and had to leave the pitch for treatment. And yet Reading continued with the pressure undeterred. Kevin Doyle, probably the best player on the pitch, had been causing all kinds of problems for Middlesbrough, running all over the place and never losing the ball. He nearly put Reading ahead when he just failed to connect on Murty's near-perfect cross. It would have been the perfect end to the half, but the home fans knew that playing this kind of football, against a Middlesbrough side on the ropes, the next Reading goal would come.

The only worry at half time was an injury to Dave Kitson that saw Leroy Lita take his place for the second half. Reading carried on from where they'd left off. The nerves had evaporated and we were playing some fine flowing confident football. It was a joy to watch. A series of superb passes eventually saw Seol again released on the right, deep in Middlesbrough territory. His cross nearly saw Doyle score, but instead the ball came through to Lita with plenty of time to blast the ball into the back of the net and put Reading 3-2 ahead. Reading were cruising and it felt just like last season with the opposition hoofing the ball out of play and running out of ideas how to break down the Reading defence. Just when we were really starting to relax with time running out, Sonko nearly gifted a goal when he left a back pass leaving Viduka free to run through - and forcing Hahnemann to make a good save from close range. Gunnarsson and Hunt came off the bench as Reading looked to hold the lead but they were rarely threatened despite playing deeper in the last part of the game. Middlesbrough might have claimed a late goal that was ruled off-side, but there was no doubt this was the right result at full time. This was a great game, and the perfect start to life in the Premier League for the Royals.

Following report by John Wells:
The opening twenty five minutes of this game seemed to confirm all the pre season speculation from the pundits that Reading would be easy meat for the established Premiership clubs. The remaining sixty five minutes had them eating their words for now at least. From the moment Shorey sliced a ball out of play when under no pressure in the opening minute Reading looked jittery. Ki-Hyeon forced a save out of Shwartzer from a free kick but Boro stroked the ball around assuredly and stifled Reading with ease. They took the lead when Murty left Downing in space in the box and showing his international class volleyed home Yabubu's cross inside Hahnemann's far post. The goal stunned and briefly silenced an exuberant home crowd. On twenty one minutes Harper was tempted into a mistimed challenge and Yakubu went down on the edge of the box. Rochemback struck the free kick at Hahanemann who obligingly spilled the ball to Yakubu and Reading were two down. The visitors had demonstrated just how quickly errors are punished at this level. For a few minutes the Royals looked as is they might crumble.

Suddenly Shorey seemed to understand the difference was not so much about class as confidence, picking a ball up just inside his own half, he went on a run deep into Boro territory going past opponents as if they were standing still. His superb pass provided Doyle with a chance which forced a save from Shwartzer. This seemed to spark a revival. Kitson should have scored from a header and Sidwell hit a shot tamely at Schwartzer with Kitson well positioned as a passing option. Shorey had a free kick well saved. Reading were finding their feet at last. With two minutes left in the half Reading amazingly struck two goals to change the course of the game. First Ki-Hyeon skipped past Arca and Kitson bundled the ball over the line and then Sidwell stroked the ball wide of Shwartzer from an Ingimarsson low cross. Murty almost made it three with a shot across goal which Doyle in turn almost nudged into the net. The only incident which caused concern was a very nasty challenge on Kitson by Riggott which might have merited a straight red but referee Halsey almost forgot to punish with a booking. Kitson was unable to continue. It was a far cruder challenge than anything I saw in the Championship last season!

Reading took to the field on the second half looking far more assured and it was no surprise when Seol Ki-Hyeon sent the whole defence one way then the other before fizzing in a cross which Doyle went for and created sufficient panic to create a goalmouth scramble. When the ball broke from the ruck Lita smashed it left footed into the net for what turned out to be the winner. Boro never really looked like getting back into the game even when enjoying long periods of possession and Hahanemann had little to do. They did manage to put the ball in the net but the referees assistant flagged for offside. It would have given the visitors an equaliser they did not really deserve.

Ki-Hyeon had a fine game proving a real threat down the right and winning plenty of ball in midfield. He has good close control crosses well and is somewhat unpredictable which is very unsettling for opposing defenders. Shorey was magnificent, Sidwell and Harper were extremely effective, Ingimarsson and Sonko looked as solid as ever, and Doyle worked tirelessly up front. It was business as usual except they were doing against Premiership opposition! Whatever Hanson and his colleagues may say about this performance on Match of the Day tonight, clearly Reading have no need to feel overawed. Defeats will come, but on this showing, so will victories. Reading are a young squad and they will learn and improve, and with Coppell leading them who knows what they might achieve.


Unbebloodylievable!! Where is this amazing ride going to stop? Well most of us thought after the first twenty minutes today. Like rabbits caught in the headlights Reading simply froze - and crash bang wallop. After dreadful marking for the first Boro goal then poor keeping by Marcus for the second, at 2-0 down mumblings of game over and taunting from the Boro fans brought us all crashing down to earth with a big bump. But, oh but, just like the fireworks before the game Reading after half an hour suddenly sprung into life with a big bang, and just like they'd had a huge injection of belief and confidence suddenly started playing. Caution to the wind, nothing to lose, whatever, suddenly Boro were on the back foot and Reading started playing. 2-2 at half time was a dream and the second half we got even better, and better and better!
Reading battered Boro in the second half and thoroughly deserved our historic victory. A quite amazing game and result, which after all the hype and all that's gone on before over the many years of underachieving years, rockets straight into one of the top ten games in Reading's long history. Individual performances in a superb outstanding team performance, where do you start?
Sidwell - awesome, pay him what ever he wants JM. The Iceman Ingimarsson, a fantastic performance, just simply did his job with pride and passion. Doyle, brilliant, quite brilliant. Seol, glimpses of what he's capable of, brilliant debut. Murty, died for the shirt and Kitson and Lita both performed heroics and were there to put the ball in the net when it mattered. I'm not going to go on about just one game, long season, so and so not good enough or what if and if we do this or that etc etc, I'm simply going to enjoy this moment, enjoy this day, watch Match of the Day tonight with a huge grin on my face, buy every Sunday paper tomorrow, and smile and look forward to Villa on Wednesday. Thanks Reading, thanks fellow Royals fans who made so much noise, for a truly, great, special day, when those who were there at the Mad Stad today to see Premiership football at long last, can say, "I was there" ... URZ!
Nick Newbury

What a result! What an occasion! What an atmosphere! It was a game which started as we might all have secretly feared. We were tentative, nervous and hopelessly outclassed. we finished like the champions from last year, but even better. Middlesborough looked a class outfit as they passed the ball around with a technical proficiency that we could not match. We were almost in awe of them. Our play was typified by Shorey's first touch which sent the ball straight into touch. We gave Downing too much space and he converted with clinical efficiency. A free kick was given away by Harper and Marcus failed to hold onto a hard shot and we were two down. Then it changed. The moment that signalled that change was Shorey taking them on. He suddenly realised that he could do to Middlesborough what he has always done and from that moment we believed. The team was transformed. Two quick goals came at the perfect time as Kitson bundled one in and Sidwell converted Ivar's cross. Half time came too soon for us and Doyle was within inches of giving us the lead. We wondered how we would react but the second half started as the first had finished. Lita was on for Kitson and he too managed a scrambled effort. Inevitably we sat back a bit. There was a mix up between Sonks and Marcus, Viduka's goal was disallowed for offside but we hung on. The match facts showed that we had more possession, more shots etc. but they do not tell you about the tension. This was calssic sporting drama of the highest order for us fans. It was a huge team effort to which everyone contributed. No stars - all brilliant.
Ken C

And so - the fairytale continues but get even better and better. This was a superb start to the season, not only for the unbelievable comeback and the final, very well deserved, result - but just as importantly for the lessons that I'm sure will be learnt from the painful first 20 minutes. To have the chance to see what can happen when we don't play to our full potential - but then the time to turn it around and see what we can do when we do ... couldn't have been scripted better. Saturday night - and Reading are 4th in the Premiership!!
Crowthorne Seb

I went home on Saturday feeling like we'd won the Premiership! A day later, I still do. To see us headlining on Match Of The Day and looking every inch a premiership outfit (cough: save for the first twenty minutes) was something special. Let's be realistic, we're not going to be fourth all season, but if we carry on like this we're not going to be "Sunderland In Disguise" either. One word sums it all up: "belief". And "teamwork". (Sorry, that's two words: I still can't think straight after yesterday.) Just believe, and it won't be just Boro that are made to look ordinary this season....
Kris, Muswell Hill

Blimey, we'll all remember our 1st game in the Premiership. A jittery 25 mins where Boro dominated (or were allowed to dominate) but then we build some momentum and score two goals in 2 mins. We then score early in the 2nd half and defend for most of the remainder of the game. Special mention to Soel for a blinding debut and to the forwards. Sidwell and Harper gave Boro too much respect early on but then realised they could get stuck in. What a fantastic start to the season. More of the same on Wednesday please but without the lousy start!
Worzel - West Sussex

I was very proud of the way the team came back for this important win. Hopefully lessons will be learnt from the mistakes made at the back, things we can ill afford to do at this level and the players have now seen they will be punished. But after the nervy opening period, the team began to believe in themselves and showed they can compete at this level. This was the first time I'd seen Seol properly and he looks a good buy, skilful and tricky going forward. But he was at fault at times (most notably for their first goal) in his defensive duties, although he improved vastly in that area as the game wore on. I have to say I'm very pleased to have Sky to watch, as I found the BBC's 'coverage' on Match of the Day appauling. Gary and the two Alan's could barely get the names of our players right and seemed more eager talking about Southgate's search for a new defender than our first performance in the top flight. Strangely, the Arsenal game that followed ours got much more in depth analysis... Anyway, well done Reading! We showed in the match that we're not going to be the whipping boys of this league and it was good to hear the 'Boro fans getting their "are you Sunderland in disguise" and "that's why you're going down" chants returned with interest because of how well the team performed. COME ON...
Caversham Royal

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