Reading, Fulham play out thrilling draw at Madejski
Berkshire: Reading played out a stunning second-half climax, coming from behind twice in the final 10 minutes to draw with Fulham in a thrilling Premier League encounter.
The hosts took the lead early on through Mikele Leigertwood, before Bryan Ruiz found an equaliser in the second half. Chris Baird looked to have given Fulham a vital lead, before Gareth McCleary added a late second for the hosts.
However, the action was not over for the afternoon as Dimitar Berbatov curled home what should have been an 88th-minute winner only to see Hal Robson-Kanu on hand to poke home a dramatic equaliser in an end-to-end thriller at the Madejski Stadium.
Before the match, it was all about strikers, namely former Fulham man Pavel Pogrebnyak, as he stated that he had no regrets about leaving Craven Cottage in favour of the newly promoted side. Martin Jol said he was bothered about the decision - until he signed Manchester United man Berbatov, that is.
Both started, with former Royals man Steve Sidwell having to settle for a place on the visitors` bench.
And Pogrebnyak really should have put the hosts ahead in the opening 10 minutes, inexplicably heading wide from four yards out, much to the delight of the visiting support.
Berbatov had his first chance of the game minutes later, driving a shot over from the edge of the box after a nice move from involving Kieran Richardson and Hugo Rodallega, with the latter then directing a free header straight to Alex McCarthy in the Reading goal.
Seemingly spurred on by the Honduran’s miss, Reading were galvanised and soon went ahead. Jason Roberts held the ball up nicely before finding Jobi McAnuff on the left. The winger cut inside and laid the ball off invitingly for Leigertwood, who curled an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
In a fairly even opening 45 mintues, Fulham were arguably creating the better chances, but were far too inaccurate with Rodallega fluffing another header, this time form a mistimed effort from six yards out.
The Cottagers were much more impressive in the second half though, with the introduction of Ruiz proving a pivotal decision from Jol, with the Costa Rican replacing the disappointing Rodallega, adding some flair and a stunning goal straight after his introduction.
Ruiz and Duff combined well on the edge of the area to allow the latter to crash the ball home in off the bar for the second great goal of the game.
Heading into the final 15 minutes, Fulham looked to have taken a decisive lead. Baird had a free kick from range deflected just wide for a corner, from which he stole a lead on his man and nodded in at the near post, before injuring himself in the aftermath.
The defender-turned-midfielder eventually left the pitch to be replaced by Sidwell, who was affored a positive ovation considering the visitors had just taken the lead.
What followed was a tumultuous last 10 minutes, with McCleary on as a sub, sweeping home across Schwarzer before Berbatov seemed to win the game for Fulham two minutes from time with a fine curling effort into the far corner.
However, Reading came straight back and found yet another equaliser, with Hal Robson-Kanu, another substitute, poking home from close range to cap a stunning finale.