Ghost of Christmas past haunts City
Reading ended a run of seven consecutive defeats with a goalless draw in their bout with Swansea at the Madejski Stadium. The Royals are still rooted deep in the relegation zone but they were the only one of the bottom three teams to get any kind of a result today. It is a small step but stopping the rot was vital for Brian McDermott’s men, who had come so close to earning a draw against Manchester City before Christmas.
The Royals’ last Premier League points came on November 17. Anthony Le Fondre saw a late volley headed over the bar by Swansea defender Chico Flores and the Reading striker was also booked for handling the ball Maradona style into the net. But after conceding nine goals in their last two home games, Reading’s onus was clearly on keeping a clean sheet and goalkeeper Adam Federici secured that by saving well from Nathan Dyer and Ki Sung-Yeung.
Reading also rode their luck in the first half with Michu shooting wide and then over the bar from close range in a game of little quality.
Rickie Lambert’s late penalty secured Southampton a hard-earned 1-1 draw in west London as Fulham’s poor recent run continued today. The encounter at Craven Cottage was of grave importance to both sides given their position near the relegation zone.
Fulham came into the match with just one win in 10 matches but got off to the best possible start, taking the lead inside eight minutes. Kelvin Davis could only fumble a Sascha Riether cross into the path of Dimitar Berbatov, who duly slotted home off balance at the far post. The Bulgarian celebrated by revealing a shirt saying ‘Keep Calm and Pass Me the Ball’, although he failed to stay true to his word by somehow heading wide shortly afterwards.
The miss allowed Southampton back into the game and, after a number of missed opportunities, the strugglers grabbed a late leveller. Saints academy graduate Chris Baird was adjudged to have handled a Gaston Ramirez corner, allowing Lambert to continue his 100 per cent success rate from the spot five minutes from time.
Robert Green had a day to forget as QPR sunk to the bottom of the table with a controversial 2-1 home defeat to West Brom. Harry Redknapp showed great confidence in Green by choosing him ahead of fit-again Julio Cesar, but the decision backfired in the first half as Chris Brunt beat the England stopper from 30 yards with a shot he perhaps should have saved.
Green then dropped the ball in to his own net to give the Baggies a 2-0 lead just after the re-start, although replays showed Marc-Antoine Fortune had impeded the former West Ham stopper as he came to collect the ball as it looped up off Armand Traore.
Rangers pulled one back through Djibril Cisse, but they otherwise lacked a cutting edge up front that suggests Redknapp will have to make major changes to his squad next month if his team are to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
There was an element of luck about both West Brom’s goals, but other than the occasional flash of brilliance from Adel Taarabt, Redknapp’s team offered little going forward and were also shaky at the back. Kick-off was delayed by 11 minutes after West Brom’s team bus was delayed by the sales traffic around Loftus Road.