Brian McDermott's new 'friends' match Chelsea in all but the luck stakes


Reading will not worry about nights like this. On their first big-stage test of their top-flight return, they played calmly but proudly, with enough self-confidence but not quite enough luck. Brian McDermott, whose side led the European champions for 40 of the middle minutes, said that his team did not deserve to lose. He was still confident of a win late on. Without late errors, from their goalkeeper and a linesman, he might have got one.

It was a performance just as good as Southampton's at Manchester City on Sunday, and followed a similar pattern. Despite going behind, Reading imposed their way back into the game and led before quality and fortune told against them.

To have wrested the game back was particularly impressive given how it started. Reading have a Russian billionaire of their own but, for now at least, they inhabit a different football universe from Chelsea. The Championship and the Champions League are different competitions and different titles. Anton Zingarevich has not bought players like Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, who spent the first 20 minutes playing a fluid game of piggy-in-the-middle with 10 yellow shirts in between.

When Chris Gunter performed his own Ivan Ramis pastiche after 17 minutes, misdirecting a tackle on Hazard by a matter of feet, Reading briefly appeared just as naïve and flustered as Wigan Athletic had on Sunday.

But Reading are a team in their manager's image, and they are more likely to merge with Oxford United than panic on the pitch. Brian McDermott has a lighter, more humane touch than anyone else in football. He "loves" his players and sees them as "friends". They take that unity and trust onto the pitch with them, and never look frayed or flustered.

So it was yesterday, as Reading played their way into the game. They did so inspired by three of their new summer additions. There could be no better sign of McDermott's gifts as an educator than the fact that Pavel Pogrebnyak, Danny Guthrie, and Garath McCleary, new to the hoops, played as he wanted.

Pogrebynak was the imposing physical leader, revelling in competition with John Terry and Gary Cahill. Guthrie, directing Reading's best work, enjoyed the responsibility he rarely wore at Newcastle. And Garath McCleary, the 25-year-old with a non-league background, was brisk and fearless in his wing-play.

The three combined brilliantly to draw Reading level. McCleary and Guthrie exchanged passes, and the winger whipped a perfect cross to Pogrebynak, who darted in front of Cahill and headed past Cech. Just three minutes later Guthrie put them ahead, curling a free-kick in via Petr Cech's generous legs.

It was as much as this team, newly-assembled but well-drilled deserved. They continued to push and with more time they might have scored another, Ian Harte's curling free-kick was just wide of first Alex Pearce and then the post.

A third goal before the break would have been a fantasy, but it was also a necessity. Chelsea pinned Reading back and while Guthrie has the fitness of Premier League experience Jem Karacan and Mikele Leigertwood do not. They could not hassle as they did in the first half, and were relying on Pearce and Kaspers Gorkss to keep them afloat.

Had Adam Federici's hands been stronger, and Andy Halliday's eyes been sharper, Reading might have held on. But they were starting to leak chances and, ultimately, did not have the luck to sustain their strong start.

Related article from London's Evening Standard...

Di Matteo walking a tightrope as he perfects his take on tiki-taka


Get Adobe Flash player


German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice