Match Report: Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez left bemused by Adam Le Fondre's late larceny for Reading

Reading 2 Chelsea 2

the Madejski Stadium

“I bet that's changed a few headlines. eh?” The words of a laughing Brian McDermott after his Reading team had erased a deficit that stood at two with 87 minutes on the clock. It might also have accelerated the demise of his opposite number at Chelsea, the unloved Rafa Benitez, who also offered a smile, one of bewilderment. It was either that or cry.

Watch the highlights from this game right here

If a crisis meeting was deemed necessary after the scratchy FA Cup draw at Brentford, what next for Benitez after arguably the most bizarre result of his 20 match-reign? Chelsea were coasting to victory here after goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard. Reading offered nothing until the last orders were rung. McDermott admitted afterwards that his principal concern at the start of the game was to avoid embarrassment against the European champions.

McDermott might want to give derring do a go next time. The bench is certainly no place for Adam Le Fondre, who for the third successive league game earned rewards following his late introduction. That's 12 goals for the season, six of those as a substitute and five in the last three matches. Benitez can count himself lucky that Le Fondre was on the pitch for only 24 minutes.

"It's difficult to explain," Benitez said. "We are as surprised as you, controlling game for 85 minutes. We had chances to kill the game. The team did a perfect job for 85 minutes. They had their first shot after 78 minutes. We all have to take responsibility. These little things make the difference."

Benitez seeks succour in the technical details, utterly failing to recognise the negative emotions associated with his posting at Stamford Bridge. In this state of denial he proceeds towards his own execution. "We are still in a good position in the table but it could have been better. The team is improving. For 85 minutes we were really good. We just made mistakes. At this level they know they have to be more clinical. We win together, we draw together."

McDermott got lucky here, and accepted as much. "We are trying to stay in games. What I have learned is if you open up in a game in this division then you get beat. We have not played particularly well today but we have got something. If you have Le Fondre coming off the bench you know you have a chance.

"We got a draw with the champions of Europe from being two down with three minutes to play. It's about our players tonight."

Eventually. A neat strike from Mata with the final kick of the first half and a smart header from Lampard looked to have claimed the easiest three points of Chelsea's season. A fixture that should have generated the tension ordinarily associated with teams battling for survival had none, until Le Fondre's late intervention. The Madejski came alight for the first time in the match after his opening strike, planted left-footed beneath Ross Turnbull, hinting at what might have been had McDermott the courage to take the fight to Chelsea at the outset.

Benitez endeared himself to the Chelsea support further with the omission from the starting line-up of the team's heartbeat, John Terry, and new talisman Demba Ba. It is hard to imagine that captain, leader, legend voted for that during the meeting with Benitez and Lampard, despite concerns about his fitness. The selection of Fernando Torres over Ba bore even less scrutiny.

The first real opening took 40 minutes to fashion. It fell to Torres, who swung wildly at the ball with his right boot. The outcome was both sad and comic, the ball travelling parallel to the goal as it flew away from the target. It is clear that Torres can never be the player he was at Anfield. The most he can hope is to run around like a journeyman linking the play as best he can.

As fate would have it, he played that very role as Chelsea stole the lead in the last attack of the opening half. Lifting the ball cleverly over the defender's head, Torres picked out Mata as he advanced toward goal. There was plenty to do to accommodate body and ball, but he managed it with a drilled left-foot volley on the turn from close range.

In the second half a typical Lampard break saw him feed the ball through to Oscar, who pulled the ball square in the direction of Torres. A peak Torres would have been halfway to the halfway line in celebration before the defender could respond. This version didn't even get his toe to the ball and Ian Harte cleared.

Not to worry, there is always Lampard. A Mata corner was met by Lampard with typical elan, steering the ball high into the net to double Chelsea's lead. That seemed to be that until Le Fondre joined the party. His first was clinical, the second equally so sidefooting the ball coolly past Turnbull, exposed by a hapless Chelsea defence.

Man of the match Le Fondre.

Match rating 7/10.

Referee M Halsey (Hertfordshire).

Attendance 24,097.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on