Cardiff seem to be cursed with misfortune every time a promotion push reaches its climax. Last night they watched their creative livewire Craig Bellamy limp off within 18 minutes, suffering a hamstring injury while making a run.
Now the Welsh club faces an anxious wait to see whether he is out of the rest of their campaign. Reading looked an impressive unit here so Cardiff would sorely miss Bellamy if the forward is out of Tuesday night's second leg. "We'll check him on Saturday," said visiting manager Dave Jones. "He came off straight away. We haven't given up hope on him."
The injury was not what Cardiff needed for morale after the bitter end to their battle for automatic promotion – and memories still fresh of late-season heartbreak in the past two years.
At least there was some better news on the pitch with a result that leaves this tie open. It was a credit to both sides' defences that they kept their opponents out on a hard-fought, tense night. Jones added: "It was niggly in the tunnel and carried on when we got out. There were battles all over the pitch."
In the first half, this match did not look like it would turn into a 0-0. Both teams attacked but, after going into the break scoreless, altered their approaches, concentrating on trying not to lose. Chances became scarce. Despite all the tough tackling and tugging, neither side imposed themselves, leading to the fourth successive draw between the teams.
Cardiff could have snatched the lead late on with Peter Whittingham and Chris Burke both trying their luck from long range, but Reading had the bulk of the possession in dangerous areas late on. Reading manager Brian McDermott said: "I was pleased with our spirit, desire and determination. There was nothing in the game."
Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Griffin, Mills, Khizanishvili, Harte; Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Robson-Kanu (Manset, 52); Long, Hunt (Howard, 84). Substitutes not used: Gunnarsson, Tabb, Church, Pearce, McCarthy.
Cardiff City (4-4-2): Bywater; McNaughton, Keinan, Quinn (Naylor, 85), Blake; Burke, Olofinjana, Whittingham, Emmanuel-Thomas (Koumas, 90); Bothroyd, Bellamy (Chopra, 18). Substitutes not used: Heaton, Hudson, Rae, Parkin.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).Reuse content