Reading 1 Manchester City 0: Pearce's patience tested by latest knock-out blow to City

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The Independent Online

Once again an opponent was knocked out playing Manchester City, and this time a City player received a red card for use of the elbow. There, however, the link between Ben Thatcher's assault on Pedro Mendes and last night ends.

The KO'd player was innocently felled, Ivar Ingimarsson being knocked out in a collision of heads with Sylvain Distin as he scored the only goal of the game midway through the first half. The dismissal came late on. Ousmane Dabo led with an arm as he jumped for a high ball with Steve Sidwell and caught the midfielder in the neck. In the context of Thatcher's deed, and a weekend in which a Hamilton Academical player had to have his heart re-started with a defibrillator after receiving a blow to the neck, it is easy to understand a zero tolerance approach to raised arms but Dabo did not seem to have any malicious intent.

Stuart Pearce, admirably maintained his stance of refusing to criticise referees but noted he had been told it seemed harsh and the club may appeal once he had seen a video.

The incident marred a lively game and detracted from an impressive victory which took Reading to eighth in the Premiership table, ahead of Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs. It looks as if the promoted side have met Steve Coppell's first objective ­ "to be competitive".

He said: "The challenge now is to sustain it. It is a constant, game-by-game challenge." Coppell has only superficially strengthened the team that ran away with last season's Championship title but there is virtue in trusting to teamwork. The defensive unit have been together for 20 months. He said: "When you have that you get a sort of telepathy."

You also get the type of bond which sustained Ingimarsson for 68 minutes of growing difficulty after his blow to the head. "He suffered concussion," Coppell said. "He did not even know he scored. He had to ask someone. That was bringing on a migraine and he developed a blind spot on his left side. To continue, and play as he did, was terrific."

The bonds that Coppell has developed were tested by the recent arrest of Leroy Lita, who is on police bail after allegedly being involved in a fracas in Bristol a few hours after Reading had returned from their previous match, the defeat at Wigan. But Dave Kitson is still recuperating from injuries sustained on the opening day, so Lita played.

He did not look short of motivation and he set the tone giving City's central defenders a thorough work-out. His strong running led to the goal. Distin tugged him back on the flank and Bobby Convey delivered the searching free-kick which Ingimarsson converted.

There ought to have been further goals but good goalkeeping, notably a superb save by Nicky Weaver from Ingimarsson, and poor finishing, meant the only goal was one the scorer did not know about.

Goal: Ingimarsson (23) 1-0.

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Seol (Gunnarsson, 77), Sidwell, Harper, Convey; Lita (Long, 75), Doyle. Substitutes not used: Little, Hunt, Stack (gk).

Manchester City (4-1-3-2): Weaver; Richards (Trabelsi, 60), Dunne, Distin, Jordan; Dabo; Sinclair, Barton, Reyna (Miller, 73); Dickov (Samaras, 60), Corradi. Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Hamann.

Referee: H Webb (Yorkshire).

Booked: Manchester City Distin, Reyna, Sinclair, Barton.

Sent off: Dabo.

Man of the match: Lita.

Attendance: 24,092.

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