MATCH REPORT: 2006/2007 Season

23 September 2006: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: Doyle (48 mins, pen).
Man Utd: Ronaldo (73 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 24,098

Pos Team P Pts GD
6 Liverpool 6 10 +2
7 READING 6 10 +1
8 Arsenal 5 8 +3
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty (Bikey 89), Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Ki-Hyeon (Hunt 85), Sidwell, Harper, Convey, Lita (Gunnarsson 76), Doyle. Subs Not Used: Stack, Long.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville, Vidic, Ferdinand, Heinze (O'Shea 70), Fletcher (Solskjaer 70), Carrick, Scholes, Richardson (Saha 58), Ronaldo, Rooney. Subs Not Used: Brown, Kuszczak.
Reading: -
Man Utd: -
Ref: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

This was an excellent performance from the Royals that showed they are capable of competing with the cream of English football. Reading might even have taken the full three points after going ahead in the second half, but it was always going to be a tall order to hold out against Manchester United's multi-million pound force. It was a dream to watch as every Reading player gave their all to hold off the likes of Scholes, Ronaldo and Rooney. Reading excelled in defence - and showed quality over the rest of the field too. There couldn't have been a bigger contrast between Tuesday night's defensive performance against Darlington and this show against one of the best strike forces in the world. Shorey, Sonko, Ingimarsson and Murty were a class apart from Tuesday's line-up and well all at the top of their games - they did incredibly well to limit United's chances throughout.

We all knew it was going to be one of the toughest games of the season but we weren't sure just how well Reading would be equipped to deal with United. Early on there were signs of the quality of the opposition when Rooney's powerful effort was saved, but not held, by Hahnemann in the Reading goal causing early concern. However, as it turned out we had much less reason to worry as time and time again Reading's defence held firm and United were restricted to long range efforts that sailed harmlessly over the bar. The visitors were struggling to get in close and despite their early efforts Reading looked comfortable. Sonko was letting nothing past him and it was pure delight to see him land perfect tackles on Rooney every single time. Although we weren't scared about pushing forward, the whole side was helping out in defence with Convey and Lita also making important tackles as United found little option up front but to run into another Reading tackle.

After United's early dominance of the ball, Reading soon settled down to start playing some good attacking football ourselves, cheered on by a capacity home crowd generating some serious decibels. Lita had an excellent game up front and was chasing down everything to try and win possession - he had a good effort from the edge of the area that was narrowly wide of Van der Sar's right post. Moments later Doyle broke through and found himself deep in the box with just the keeper to beat but unfortunately failed to avoid the goalkeeper. It was probably the best chance of the opening forty five minutes. The game was being played at a serious pace and was pulsating stuff - we were all happy to reach half-time at 0-0 and take a much deserved break.

The second half saw Reading get off to the better start. After settling down and holding United it was time to carve out some more attacking moves. With just three minutes on the second half clock, a Soel cross from the right into the United area saw Gary Neville control the ball with his arm and the referee point immediately to the penalty spot. There was no doubt it was a penalty and the referee did well to spot it - probably assisted by the entire North Stand on their feet screaming for the decision. Kevin Doyle missed his spot-kick during the week but didn't hesitate to take the ball for a chance to score against the team he's support since a kid. His shot was low and to the left and the keeper guessed the right way but couldn't stop it as it went through his hands and into the back of the net. Reading 1 Manchester United 0. The Madjeksi Stadium errupted.

After the goal we expected an onslaught - but it didn't come straight away as Reading continued on the attack looking for a vital second goal. Lita and Doyle continued to be lively up front as we pressed forward but without creating any clear but chances. We won a corner which was collected by the keeper and Soel Ki-Hyeon had a shot that was easily held by Van der Sar. Alex Fergurson had clearly seen enough as his side continued to struggle and with time running short. After already replacing the very poor Richardson with Saha his double substitution with twenty minutes left to play saw O'Shea and Solskjaer join the action - and saw United step up the tempo for the last part of the game. Ronaldo had been showing off all evening with fancy step overs but had failed to get past Murty until 73 minutes on the clock, when the Reading defence was at last beaten. He cut into the box on the left and fired past Hahnemann for an impressive solo-goal and to make the scores level at 1-1. United at last had the initiative and we feared the worst. However, the Reading defence continued with the same outstanding job they performed for the previous seventy-five minutes. Gunnarsson, Hunt and Bikey came off the bench to break up the pattern of the game and shore up the midfield, and full-time eventually arrived for a deserved share of the points.

This result was a another triumph for the qualities that enabled Reading to run away with the Championship last season. Manchester United, even with all their undeniably world class players, found it very difficult to break down a well organised and determined Reading team. In addition Reading played some controlled football and gave United a few anxious moments and might have scored more than the single goal which Kevin Doyle put away from the penalty spot. Ronaldo's late equaliser denied Reading a remarkable yet increasingly likely looking victory. Reading then survived a very tricky last quarter of an hour. Once again the Royals kept their heads and coped well with the onslaught fuelled by the introduction of Saha and Solskjaer.

In the early stages United predictably dominated possession but Reading kept their defensive shape very compact and even though Scholes, Carrick and Rooney did their utmost to pas their way through Reading gave them no room whatsoever. In each half Sonko stole the ball from Rooney with superbly timed challenges which must have given his team mates a tremendous lift as well the crowd. Ronaldo had to resort to numerous speculative long range efforts which never really looked like beating Hahnemann. Midway through the half the ball fell kindly to Doyle who had slipped behind the United defence and might have done better with his close range shot which Van der Sar gathered comfortably. It was mainly United but Reading were certainly looking confident when they did break out of defence. Seol was getting the better of Heinze and the Argentinian was lucky not to find his way into the book for some crude challenges to keep him at bay. The match was still finely balanced at half time.

Three minutes into the second half Neville's arm twitched and made contact with a Seol cross. The referee spotted the offence and Neville looked dejected which was a clear indication of guilt. Doyle, having made a real hash of his penalty in the week against Darlington, grabbed the ball with admirable confidence. He stood composed with the ball in hand as Van Der Sar pathetically attempted to unnerve him by taking time out for a drink. Then he calmly put the ball down and although the 'keeper got a hand to it, the pace of the shot took it into the net. The stadium erupted. United now threw caution to the wind and pinned Reading back for long periods. When Richardson missed a good chance it was starting to look like it could be Reading's day. The introduction of Saha and Solskjaer upped the tempo and Rooney seemed to be everywhere but still Reading held on. In the seventy-third minute the ball reached Ronaldo wide on the left. Murty was looking isolated as he closed him down. Ronaldo made room for his shot and hit it unerringly inside the far post.

In the closing stages United were pressing hard, but with Hunt, Gunnarsson and Bikey coming on to add some fresh legs to the cause, Reading held on for a point they clearly deserved. Long was denied a chance of a brief appearance when Murty came off injured just as an exhausted Doyle was preparing to come off.

In his post match interview Coppell as always kept everything in perspective which is another key factor in Reading's recent success. As far as the players are concerned their confidence must be growing with every game. For the fans this was a Reading performance to savour. We can't be sure about Reading avoiding relegation yet, but one thing is now resolved in my mind, they are certainly good enough to stay up.
John Wells


Well done chaps. Everyone played out of their skins and even though Convey is still looking to make his mark as an attacking force, he defended as well as anyone. Everyone around me thought we were giving them too much respect and not getting close enough early on but soon realised that when you get too close to these overpaid internationals, they will turn and leave you for dead. So once again Coppell got his tactics spot on and the team played out of their skins for 90 mins. Ronaldo - great goal and great skills but why all that bloody play acting? He just looks like the prat he is. Strength in depth is an issue over the months ahead but we're not the only club with that problem. Now off to Upton Park to give Pardew's boys more problems. Keep it up boys!
Worzel, West Sussex

Have you ever heard noise like what was heard in the Madjeski yesterday against the mighty Man U? I certainly haven't. Though nobody will probably admit it, I like many are starting to think maybe we are good enough to play at this level and judged on the first six games and what we are witnessing on the pitch I really think we are. What's so amazing is with the exception of Seol it's the same side as last year and I must admit I'd never thought I'd see Murty, Sonko, Harper and co playing and completing at this level but that's exactly what they are doing and with truly magnificent effect. We can get better, Convey has to start showing last seasons form and Kitson when back will give us the chance to hold the ball up better up front but let's enjoy yesterday. 1-1 was a fair a result and the fact Man U could not beat us is a huge confidence booster. I'm running out of words to praise Sonko and Iceman Ingimarsson but yet again like a pair of colossuses they were quite awesome repelling all Man U could throw at them. These really are happy days and lets enjoy every second of it, any Reading fan who'd have watched Match of the Day last night would have felt so proud and have tingles listening the so called experts laud RFC and rightly give the fans praise and recognition for the noise we made and the support for the team. Who'd have thought it!
Nick Newbury

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