Wed 22 Aug 2012 19:45 (Attendance: 41,733)
The last time Stamford Bridge was full it was wishing the team well for Munich. Now it welcomes back champions. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are ready for Reading…
Munich is the gift that keeps on giving. As a result of Chelsea's qualification for the UEFA Super Cup on 31 August this match was brought forward nine days in the schedule. There are no other midweek fixtures.
Fortuitously, that offers the Blues the chance to steal an early march on Barclays Premier League rivals with Manchester United, Spurs and Arsenal dropping points in the first encounters of the campaign.
It is also the Bridge's first chance since the victory parade to hail the Champions League heroes, as well as welcome new boys Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin.
Sunday's win at Wigan also secured our first clean sheet in nine games, 14 including pre-season, since Arsenal away in April. Chelsea remain undefeated in all first games of the season since 1998 when we lost to Coventry.
Branislav Ivanovic's early strike was timed at 1' 48" and may well be the earliest opening day goal in our history. (Pre-war goal timings can be hard to verify, so if anyone has evidence to the contrary we would love to hear from you - email email@example.com)
In recent years the quickest was in 2010, which will toll a bell for our present manager, Roberto Di Matteo. He was on the receiving end as West Bromwich Albion boss when Florent Malouda netted the first after six minutes (pictured below) in what would be a 6-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge.
So far, though, the closest we have found to rival Ivanovic's speed of strike is four minutes, recorded by several players including Gordon Durie at home to Sheffield Wednesday (2-1, Division One) in 1987, Nigel Spackman four years later against Derby County (5-0, Division Two), Bobby Tambling at Wolves in 1964 (3-0, Division One), and George Mills in August 1937.
The latter is timely. Liverpool lost 0-3 at West Brom on Saturday, their worst opening day since that visit to the Fulham Road 75 years ago. Mills hit three that day in a 6-1 hammering for the Scousers, with Jimmy Argue, Harry Burgess and Billy Mitchell completing the rout.
No Chelsea player that day was making his debut, unlike substitute Oscar and starter Eden Hazard at the DW, who both displayed quality for all to see. With two impressive assists in seven minutes, has any new player raised a huzzah! from Chelsea supporters so rapidly as the inventive new no.17?
Only, perhaps, had he started the game with a Princess Eugenie-style fascinator on his head might Hazard have drawn more instant attention.
The corollary to such extravagant talent is suffering persistent bad tackling from the opposition - Hazard was the most fouled player in France over two seasons there. Wigan spread that responsibility, and therefore the referee's disapproval, around the team.
At one point the man in the middle, Mike Jones, witnessed another obvious attempt to clobber the newest famous Belgian and instead of simply admonishing the assailant, summoned his skipper too, showing he knew what was going on.
Other officials might take note.
Last season's top eight
Last season's Championship top eight
Tonight may well bring home debuts for new boys Eden Hazard and Oscar (pictured above), as Stamford Bridge hails the conquering heroes of Munich for the first time.
Chelsea's strike force will have looked avariciously at Stoke's opening goal on Saturday and Aussie keeper Adam Federici's howler that created it. Reading's shirt sponsor, the posh foodstore Waitrose, certainly don't do giveaways as generous as that.
On the evidence of Sunday at Wigan, last season's problem of starting games sluggishly appears to have been addressed by Roberto Di Matteo and co. However, just six shots on the Latics' goal (Chelsea's lowest tally in the league since September 2007) suggests there is plenty of scope for improvement. This is surely a game to test the visiting keeper's confidence at will.
The Blues exposed Wigan's fashionable 3-4-3 formation down the flanks but Reading play a more rigid 4-4-2, with veteran Ian Harte, still a threat from set-plays, and young Chris Gunter their defence-first full-backs. A possibly decisive factor will be how well former Newcastle grafter Danny Guthrie and Mikele Leigertwood (pictured below left) in central midfield cope with the quick feet and vision of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, the Chelsea playmakers already linking well in the final third.
Wigan were not without their chances on Sunday, with free headers amid the Chelsea defence that might well have proved costly. Reading's new signing from Stuttgart, Pavel Pobgrebnyak, impressed early on loan at our neighbours Fulham earlier this year. The tall, burly Russian target man started with five goals in three games at Craven Cottage before tailing off, and it was Reading who took the summer gamble with hard cash instead.
This game comes too early for Marko Marin, the Germany winger having missed much of pre-season through a hamstring injury.
Roberto Di Matteo does have leather-lunged midfielder Ramires back again after the illness that prevented him participating in the opening match victory over Wigan.
Former Chelsea schoolboy striker Jason Roberts is suspended for Reading, and central midfielder Jem Karacan is still doubtful because of a leg injury.
Another regular in their Championship-winning campaign, winger Jimmy Kébé, could return to make his first Barclays Premier League start since May 2008.
WE HAVE HISTORY
Chelsea are looking to extend our unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge against Reading to 10 games stretching back to our first meeting in the FA Cup in January 1921.
The Berkshire club are in just their third top-tier campaign. Their most recent visit in January 2008 was settled in London's favour by a Michael Ballack goal (pictured below) just past the half-hour mark.
The German midfielder powered home Paulo Ferreira's cross with his head, and the result meant that the club record of nine successive wins in all competitions had been equalled.
A bizarre own-goal handed Reading an unlikely point on Boxing Day 2006. Didier Drogba had scored twice, either side of former Blues trainee Leroy Lita's goal, to set José Mourinho's team on course for victory.
But an unusually wayward Ashley Cole clearance late in the match rebounded off Michael Essien, past Henrique Hilário. The Portuguese was in goal following the injury inflicted on Petr Cech by Stephen Hunt in the earlier meeting at the Madejski Stadium.
That Stamford Bridge draw was one of a sequence over the festive period that severely damaged the Premier League champions' hopes of retaining the title for a third season in succession.
The Royals' last league win against the Blues was in March 1930 in the old Second Division when goals from Alf Messer, Walter Baggett and Frank McPherson secured the points at Elm Park. Harry Miller scored for the Blues.
Our previous six league meetings at Stamford Bridge
1926/27 - Drew 0-0
1927/28 - Drew 0-0
1928/29 - Chelsea won 2-1
1929/30 - Chelsea won 1-0
2006/07 - Drew 2-2
2007/08 - Chelsea won 1-0
Chelsea v Reading in all competitions
Games played 18
Chelsea wins 9
Royals wins 3
Head to head in the League at Stamford Bridge
Games played 6
Chelsea wins 3
Royals wins 0
Biggest league win at Stamford Bridge for each team
Chelsea 2-1 Reading - 27/04/1929
Chelsea played at Stamford Bridge: 104
Reading last played away in the Premier League: 1,567
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,650
Liverpool won the league: 8,145
The Blues have won nine of our last 11 games at Stamford Bridge with the goalless draw against Tottenham and a defeat to Papiss Cissé and Newcastle.
Our home record last term was 12 wins, three draws and four defeats.
Chelsea's defeat at QPR last season was our only reverse in the last 67 games against newly promoted teams in over 11 years. We have won 55 of those matches.
2012/13 Premier League scorers
Ivanovic 1, Lampard 1 (pen).
League games since
A home win: 0
A home draw: 4
A home defeat: 1
John Terry is due to play his 550th game for the club tonight. He needs one goal to reach 50 in all competitions for the Blues
If selected, Florent Malouda will make his 150th Premier League appearance and Juan Mata his 50th start tonight in all competitions
Reading's minor honours include the Full Members Cup in 1988 and the 2005/06 and 2011/12 Football League Championship as well as several lower division championships.
This is the Royals' first away game in the top flight for over four years since their 4-0 win at Pride Park against Derby County.
In winning the Championship last term Reading had the best defensive record, keeping 20 clean sheets and conceding 41 goals in 46 games but they scored the fewest goals of any team in the top five - 69.
Their away record was 13 wins, three draws and seven defeats.
Manager Brian McDermott
Days in charge 983
Royals' last 10 year league history
|Jul 14||AFC Wimbledon (a)||W 7-0|
|Jul 17||Ebbsfleet (a)||W 3-2|
|Jul 21||Quarteirense (Vilamoura)||D 1-1|
|Jul 24||Sheffield Wed (Vilamoura)||L 0-2|
|Jul 27||Olhanense (Vilamoura)||D 1-1|
|Aug 4||Bournemouth (a)||D 2-2|
|Aug 7||Brighton (a)||D 1-1|
|Aug 11||Crystal Palace (h)||W 2-0|
2011/12 league scorers
Le Fondre 1 (pen)
League games since
An away win: 1
An away draw: 6
An away defeat: 0
Ins Danny Guthrie (Newcastle, free), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Stuttgart, free), Pierce Sweeney (Bray, usdisclosed), Nicky Shorey (West Brom, free), Chris Gunter (Nottingham Forest, £2.5m), Adrian Mariappa (Watford, £2.5m), Garath McCleary (Nottingham Forest, free), Stuart Taylor (Manchester City, free).
Outs Mathieu Manget (FC Sion, undisclosed), Tomasz Cywka (Barnsley, free), Michail Antonio (Sheffield Wednesday, undisclosed), Michael Hector (Shrewsbury, loan), Angus MacDonald (AFC Wimbledon, loan), Joseph Mills (Burnley, loan), Karl Sheppard (Accrington Stanley, loan), Gozie Ugwu (Yeovil, loan), Brian Howard (released), Andy Griffin (released), Jack Mills (released), Mikkel Andersen (Portsmouth, loan), Jordan Obita (Portsmouth, loan).
Ins Eden Hazard (Lille, undisclosed), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen, undisclosed), Thorgan Hazard (Lens, undisclosed), Oscar (Internacional, undisclosed)
Outs Didier Drogba (out of contract, now Shanghai Shenhua), Salomon Kalou (out of contract, now Lille), José Bosingwa (out of contract, now QPR), Marko Mitrovic (released, now Brescia)), Rhys Taylor (released, now Southend), Jeffrey Bruma (Hamburg, loan), Thibaut Courtois (Atlético Madrid, loan), Ulises Davila (Sabadell, loan), Kevin De Bruyne (Werder Bremen, loan), Matej Delac (Vitória Guimaräes, loan), Rohan Ince (Yeovil, loan), Tomas Kalas (Vitesse Arnham, loan), Milan Lalkovic (Vitória Guimaräes, loan), Patrick van Aanholt (Vitesse Arnham, loan), Ben Gordon (Birmingham, loan), Romulu Lukaku (West Brom, loan), Sam Walker (Bristol Rovers, loan), Sam Hutchinson (Nottingham Forest, loan), Conor Clifford (Portsmouth, loan), Josh McEachran (Middlesbrough, loan)
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Lee Mason was the official against Blackburn in our last home game in May. He hasn't refereed Reading for over two and a half years. Chelsea have won eight and drawn four of the 12 games he has officiated.
Jason Roberts is suspended for Reading after a red card at the end of last season.
It needed late goals from Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic to seal victory and make it two wins out of two after Chelsea overcame a first-half wobble that gave Reading a lead at the interval.
As at Wigan, the football at times oozed promise for the season to come with Eden Hazard again impressing. It was another foul on the Belgian that allowed Frank Lampard to give his side an early lead from the penalty spot as Chelsea dominated, but two goals in four minutes from the newly promoted side, the second helped in by a Petr Cech error, knocked Roberto Di Matteo's side of its stride.
The manager made some positive changes in the second half and it was another England player, Gary Cahill, who put his name on the scoresheet to level the game as time began to run short.
In the end it was two tap-ins that decided the day, the first after a short-passing move, the second after a counter-attack.
Ramires had recovered from the illness that kept him out at Wigan so Ryan Bertrand made way with Juan Mata moving to the left. Eden Hazard again played in a more central role. David Luiz had a knee injury so Gary Cahill came in.
Reading left out weekend goalscorer Adam Le Fronde and played Pavel Pogrebnyak on his own up front with Danny Guthrie in behind. Jem Karacan and Gareth McClearly came into midfield.
It was Eden Hazard rather than Branislav Ivanovic who had a chance to score inside two minutes on this occasion (although the Serbian had attacked even earlier in this game) but played through by a well-weighted Mata pass, the new signing dragged a left-foot shot wide of the right-hand post.
A sharp-looking Chelsea continued to find ways through the middle of the Reading team and when Ramires raced ahead onto an Ivanovic ball, he opted to cut inside centre-back Kaspers Gorkss which meant a left-foot shot from the Brazilian. That was saved.
Reading couldn't get the ball. On 12 minutes there was the first flash from Torres, nutmegging Karakan to find a way into the area but as he was poised to shoot, Gorkss managed a sliding block.
On 16 minutes Hazard won his second penalty in a Chelsea shirt, this time teasing Chris Gunter with close control until the right-back lunged in. There were no complaints when the whistle blew. Lampard drilled the ball into the bottom left-hand corner for his 188th Chelsea goal.
Pavel Pogrebnyak may have been scoring just his first for his new club six minutes later but it was the goal of the game. McCleary was allowed to cross from the Reading right and the tall Russian guided a header from distance over the top of Cech who had no chance, unlike four minutes later when the newly-promoted visitors took the lead.
Although our keeper got his body well behind Guthrie's low free-kick, he failed to take the energy out of the ball and it bounced off him and in. From a totally dominant position, the Blues were 2-1 behind and suddenly character was as important as the crisp passing of the opening minutes. Mikel had to dispossess a Reading attack inside the Chelsea area as the Blues were stretched again.
Terry headed a Mata free-kick over as the home side tried to wrestle the initiative back and Mikel did well to attack a tight space down the flank and pick out Hazard, whose shot from distance was off-target. But Reading had renewed belief and Cahill cleared well as Pogrebnyak threatened to get on the end of another cross. Pearce was worryingly close to heading a free-kick into Cech's net just before half time.
In stoppage time, Hazard floated a cross towards Torres who though well-marked reached it but headed disappointingly wide.
Before two minutes were played Ivanovic speared a first-time shot over after Hazard and Torres ran at the Reading rearguard, and there the attempts on goal ended for the next 10 minutes although Chelsea were monopolising possession once more.
Oscar came on for Ramires with 56 minutes gone, the first change of the game, followed closely by the first booking which went to Reading midfielder Karacan for chopping Mata in the centre-circle.
Oscar, playing the centre with Hazard now left and Mata right, drilled in a shot but it was tame.
On 66 minutes, the new Brazilian and Hazard, who continued to draw fouls and looked the man-most-likely, combined through the centre. Torres took possession wide and when his cross was cleared, it fell to Mata to shoot but there was a Reading block.
Mikel was sacrificed for Sturridge with a quarter of the game to play, the England striker playing wide on the right, but the equaliser came from a defender. Cahill spotted a space opening in front of him and fairly demanded the ball.
Taking aim, his shot was low, hard and swerving but Federici should still have made a more convincing effort at keeping it out. The Reading keeper has not started this Premier League campaign at all well following a howler on Saturday.
Mata and Sturridge both scooped shots over as the Blues searched for a winner and Mata then shot low but wide.
There were 10 minutes remaining when the pressure finally told. Mata was this time at the fulcrum of the attack, spreading his pass out to Cole who as Torres held his run in an attempt to stay level with the ball, centred low into the six-yard box where our no.9 tapped it home. His had been a patchy second-half performance, but his league scoring was underway for the season.
Reading tried valiantly to rescue a point in the closing stages and with seconds left had a free-kick deflected just wide. Goalkeeper Federici came up for it but as Chelsea won the ball, we found the right man in Hazard to carry it the length of the pitch and give Ivanovic the chance for his second goal of the season.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole; Mikel (Sturridge 68), Lampard; Ramires (Oscar 57), Hazard, Mata (Meireles 84); Torres.
Unused subs Turnbull, Bertrand, Essien, Romeu.
Scorers Lampard pen 18,Cahill 69, Torres 81, Ivanovic 90+5.
Reading (4-4-1-1): Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Gorkss, Harte; McCleary (Robson-Kanu 85), Karacan (Le Fondre 71), Leigertwood, McAnuff (c); Guthrie; Pogrebnyak (Hunt 77).
Unused subs Tabb, Mariappa, McCarthy, Cummings.
Scorers Pogrebnyak 24, Guthrie 29.
Booked Karacan 57, Pogrebnyak 64.
Referee Lee Mason
See the game from midnight on Chelsea TV.