Chelsea vs. Reading: Blues Survive Slop-Fest to Stay Perfect in Premier League
Slick and stylish it was not, nor was the outcome especially fair. And although the final score tied in neatly with the mirror-image credentials of the clubs in question—the Champions League winners were, after all, hosting the league championship winners—the journey there was almost farcically messy.
In simple terms, Chelsea beat Reading, 4-2, on Wednesday in the English Premier League. In slightly more complex terms, European champions Chelsea erased an unflattering second-half deficit and recorded a flattering 4-2 victory over Premiership newcomers Reading in a match that was really much more complex than that.
And so, after two matches and two victories, Roberto Di Matteo's Blues top the newborn table, and we're left to sort through the wreckage. The natural impulse in these kinds of games—gripping and controversial, with the favorite and underdog cast in clearly defined roles—is to draw sweeping conclusions. But in this case, that would be a mistake.
Or to put a topical spin on it, at such an early point in the season, after such a messy match, reaching too many conclusions would be roughly as dangerous as defending an Eden Hazard pullback inside the 18-yard box.
Speaking of which: Whoa.
Hazard, Chelsea's 21-year-old ballyhooed Belgian midfielder, justified the hype for the second game running, dishing out two more assists—three if you want to count winning the penalty for the opener—and sealing it, no less, with the killer fourth assist, a selfless cross after a sprinting cross-pitch counter in second-half stoppage time.
Two games form much too small a sample size for grand proclamations, but the early returns suggest that the £32 million transfer fee and £170,000-per-week wages that Chelsea reportedly shelled out for Hazard (Sky Sports) will prove a prudent investment.
Beyond that, new conclusions were scarce.
Reading look ready for a honest-to-goodness run at top-flight survival, but any follower of Brian McDermott's work will have already suspected that.
Pavel Pogrebnyak can head the ball and score some goals, but anyone who watched Fulham last season could have told you that.
Chelsea might stick around the title race until next spring, and Fernando Torres can sometimes be the most maddening man on the planet, but everyone was already talking about all of that.
And the Premier League can sometimes produce some of the world's most exciting matches, but any advocate of defensive fundamentals would laugh at that.
The rest was a showcase of glorious slop, equally entertaining and outlandish. And since we got to watch, hooray for us.
Reading's second goal? An awful mistake by Petr Cech. Stuff happens and all that.
Chelsea's second? No less awful from Adam Federici. That's two for the Aussie already this season.
Chelsea's third? Offside, and egregiously so.
And the fourth? Straight out of the open-net hockey playbook, but only after the offside goal set the backdrop.
So then, what we have here is a match both teams will feel they deserved something from, because both teams scored dubious goals and both teams scored legitimately. From watching the game, we could suspect Chelsea could challenge, and we're starting to think Reading might have a chance to survive.
But really, we're still not sure about either.
What we did discover Wednesday was that this Chelsea team can win ugly—and, let's face it, lucky—and that Reading were, in some way or another, robbed blind.
Neither will bother Chelsea one bit. And honestly, who could blame them?
If style points counted in football, last season's Champions League silverware would be gathering dust somewhere in a Catalonian trophy cabinet.
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