Reading 1 Chelsea 2: Drogba's neat finish rewards Mourinho gamble
There was an FA Cup match that Chelsea played at Newcastle in February 2005 when Jose Mourinho used all his substitutes at half-time and ended up losing the game, with an injury then reducing his team to 10 men before the end.
It was a tactical move the Blues' manager promised not to repeat, but here at the Madejski Stadium the Portuguese had once more made all his changes before the second half. However, five minutes after half-time, unlike at St James' Park, a deficit had been turned into an advantage and a repeat of history was averted. It was an advantage they held on to for their second win of the season and true to their manager's pre-season word, Chelsea are good to watch again.
However, history of an even more recent vintage was very much on the agenda in Berkshire. It usually takes decades to build up an enmity on the scale that now exists between these two teams, but in their case it only took one match. That was last October, when Stephen Hunt accidentally collided with Petr Cech, his knee hitting the Chelsea goalkeeper in the head. It left Cech with a fractured skull and led to lingering recriminations. Cech was also out for three months and returned with the skull cap he wears in every game. To show what this victory meant for Mourinho, you only had to see him pump his fist at the final whistle to realise memories of the Cech incident are still fresh.
From the outset Chelsea were indifferent and outplayed. In the second half, they ripped into Steve Coppell's men with the result that Frank Lampard levelled Andre Bikey's goal after 47 minutes. A Claudio Pizarro header was nudged on by Didier Drogba to the midfielder and he steered his shot around Marcus Hahnemann.
Three minutes later and the Londoners had the advantage when Nicky Shorey poked the ball to Drogba, who, from 22 yards, curled his shot past Hahnemann for the winner. Reading's cause was not helped when, with 18 minutes left, their debutant Kalifa Cissé was sent off for his second yellow card – a foul on Pizarro.
The game had changed with Mourinho's alterations and he explained: "At half-time I asked if there were any unfit players as I wanted to make two changes. They said no, so I made my changes. The players were brave and accepted what they had to do on the pitch."
With Ricardo Carvalho's early injury, the changes included Shaun Wright-Phillips playing well at right-back and Glen Johnson adapting to playing centre-back. Mourinho also revealed that John Terry is fit enough to play at Liverpool this weekend, adding: "Steve McClaren can drink some champagne."
Mourinho was not in the mood for celebrating when Reading took a deserved lead after 29 minutes. From a long punt by Shorey, Ivar Ingimarsson knocked the ball down, Cech missed his punch and the ball ran to Bikey who tapped into the net, 20 seconds after coming on to the pitch. It could have been worse for Chelsea when John Oster hit the post five minutes later. They survived that and have now come from behind in both games so far.
Goals: Bikey (30) 1-0; Lampard (47) 1-1; Drogba (50) 1-2.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Ingimarsson, Duberry (Bikey, 29), Shorey; Oster (Seol, 79), Cissé, Harper, Hunt; Long, Doyle. Substitutes not used: Federici (gk), Gunnarsson, De la Cruz
Chelsea (4-4-2): Cech; Ferreira (Pizarro, h-t), Carvalho (Johnson, 31), Ben Haim, A Cole; Wright-Phillips, Sidwell (Mikel, h-t), Lampard, Malouda; Drogba, Kalou. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), J Cole.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Booked: Reading Cissé, Hunt, Long, Ingimarsson; Chelsea A Cole, Carvalho, Mikel, Sidwell, Wright-Phillips.
Sent off: Cissé (72).
Man of the match: Drogba.