Previous
Cagliari
Juventus
1
3
FT
Game Details
Atletico Madrid
Hospitalet
2
2
FT
Leg 2Aggregate: 5 - 2
Game Details
Ajax Amsterdam
Vitesse Arnhem
0
4
FT
Game Details
Napoli
Parma
2
0
FT
Game Details
Athletic Bilbao
Alcoyano
1
0
FT
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details
Malaga
Deportivo La Coruña
4
1
FT
Leg 2Aggregate: 5 - 2
Game Details
Next

WhoScored: Liverpool scoring woes solved?

Tactics And Analysis
Read
By ESPN Staff

Warning signs for Reading as Keane suffers again

READING 2-1 SUNDERLAND

You suspect the words 'taken the club as far as I can' will soon be posted on the homepage of the Reading FC website.

It will be followed by eulogies to the manager who has guided the Royals through their most glorious era and an ambitious appointment of a replacement coach who will set out with the best of intentions to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.

Whether anyone can follow Steve Coppell at Reading with any form of success is a question that is likely to be answered and even though this season of good will should inspire positive and joyous thought, Soccernet's Christmas Scrooge here suspects 2008 may not be glorious for this likeable Berkshire club.

The success they achieved in the first half of this year was little short of remarkable as they backed up their promotion to the Premier League with a top ten finish few were predicting, yet reality kicked in very shortly after this current season got underway.

Some put it down to the 'second season syndrome' phenomenon that seems to hurt clubs time and again, though the truth is this club may not be able to extend themselves beyond where they are now. A series of disappointing results this term leave Reading starring at little more than a battle to claim mid-table obscurity in the next few months and that can get mundane for even the most committed of fans.

It means that a change may well be in the offing next summer and that is what the real test of Reading's credentials will be tested. Stability is not a word that is often a long-term proposal for a side with a limited history and fan base, so what happens when Coppell makes an exit and Glenn Hoddle or his like come in?

Reading's impressive Madejski Stadium, their fine training facilities and a top class youth academy set-up is certainly Premier League quality, but as Charlton discovered when they parted company with Alan Curbishley after a successful stint in the top flight, losing the anchor of the success can be a devastating blow.

So news that Coppell will soon be, to use his own words, 'taking some time out' should send a shiver of fear down the spines of supporters who are just starting to get used to life among the giants.

There are some who believe Coppell would have been an ideal choice to be England manager after a lifetime in the game of almost complete unbroken success, yet the truth is he is likely to spend the second half of 2008 sunning himself on a beach or playing a little too much golf.

Coppell could probably have a job for life at Reading should he want it, but he admits the hectic nature of life as a modern Premier League manager and all the media commitments that go with it have drained him. The man who famously walked out of Manchester City claiming he couldn't cope with the pressure back in the 1990s clearly isn't a big fan of a pressure cooker kitchen.

He certainly hasn't been trapped in too bright a spotlight during his time at Reading as he is been exceeding the limited expectations of this club from the moment he arrived, yet the trouble is he now has a set of supporters who expect to see their team beat sides like Sunderland.

The Madejski Stadium was close to bursting once again for a game that didn't promise to be one of the most thrilling of the festive season, yet we could have had two goals in the first seven minutes as first Andy Cole wasted a fine chance for Sunderland before Dave Kitson curled a shot just over the bar for Reading.

The hugely impressive Stephen Hunt then went close to Reading with a close range header that looked certain to result in a goal until Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon got his sturdy frame in the way to prevent it from crossing the line.

This game was as one-sided as you will witness as Kevin Doyle went close with a couple of efforts and the waves of Reading attacks, many via the aerial route, bombarded a creaking Sunderland defence who were delighted to get to half-time unscathed.

It was more of the same after the break as Sunderland looked content to cling on for a point, yet Roy Keane's plans were thrown off track as Ivar Ingimarsson tapped in from close range after Craig Gordon spilled the ball as he saved Ibrahima Sonko's header mid-way through the second half.

An equaliser seemed highly improbable from a Sunderland side intent on defending, but a rare break ended with Kenwyne Jones being fouled in the box and with nine minutes to go, their point was saved as Michael Chopra fired home from the spot.

Chopra and Jones went close to a second for Sunderland as Reading tired late on, but the real drama in this game was reserved for the final 10 seconds as man of the match Stephen Hunt was awarded a last gasp winner that keeper Craig Gordon was convinced he has stopped from crossing the line.

'When you look back at replays time and again and still can't be sure whether the ball is in or not, you have to wonder how he has given the goal,' moaned Keane, who still managed to keep his composure in the face of another tough call against his side. 'There are plenty of reasons for us to lose our temper after this result, but we have to rise above it.

'Everyone can see we are lacking a bit of quality in certain areas and we will try to address that during the January transfer window, but anyone expecting to see a Sunderland side playing like Arsenal or Manchester United any time soon are watching the wrong team. We have a long way to go.'

Coppell looked as uncomfortable as ever as he mumbled his way through another press conference, but he was predictably more confident about the validity of his side's winner.

'The linesman was in a great position to give it and he put his flag up straight away,' said the former England midfielder.

'This was a big win for us as it is the start of a batch of four games on top of each other and we need to get ourselves some points quickly. Hopefully this is the ideal platform for us.'

Even after this dramatic win, it was as if Coppell didn't have the energy within to get too excited and you wonder whether he will step aside before the season is out if he gets Reading into a position of Premier League security.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Stephen Hunt

The Ireland winger never ceases to impress with his commitment and he troubled the Sunderland defence throughout. He keeps getting himself into fine scoring positions.

FOOD WATCH: The beef and mash lunch went down well on this chilly December day.

BRAVE REPORTER: One hack asked Roy Keane how he can cope with performances as bad as that from one of his team. The stare he got back suggested a death sentence may soon be executed by the Cork assassin.

INSIDER MOAN: All I want for Christmas is TV replays! Would someone in power do the decent thing and bring in the goal line technology that is needed to ensure late controversies like we saw in this game are banished to the history books.

READING VERDICT: Sunderland may have made them look a little better than they actually were, but they deserved their victory even if it was tainted with a lot of good fortune in the end.

SUNDERLAND VERDICT: They lack the quality required to pick up wins at Premier League level and while their home form with dictate their fate, the first half of 2008 will be a tough struggle for Roy Keane unless he pulls a few rabbits out of the transfer window.


  • Any comments? Email Us.