Sunday, August 19, 2007

Reading into it

Considering the strength of the opposition, for Reading to step away from the first three games of the season with 4 points is a fantastic result. For Everton, it was a tale of 2 players and how when they go missing, they lose.

After such an excellent season last year, Mikel Arteta was really off song yesterday. Never a player to beat you with pace, he relies on an excellent sense for the game and great passing to be effective. He was at sea yesterday. He made countless bad passes and bad decisions and was unable to link the midfield up with the strikers to any degree. When the ball did make it forward, Andy Johnson was owned.

Johnson didn’t play badly but couldn’t get a foot into the game because Andre Bikey had a brilliant match in central defense. The Cameroonian made a few crucial tackles but more importantly marked Andy Johnson completely out of the game. You’d think such a gap in quickness would be exposed at least once in the match but it wasn’t. Bikey, and his powerful but clumsy style, of defending was the central figure on the one half of the pitch as was Stephen Hunt on the other.

I must admit, I don’t like Stephen Hunt as a player but I can appreciate his determination. He just always comes across to me as a bit of a dirty player, always willing to stick a foot in or push a moment on the pitch a bit too far, and I am not taking about the Peter Cech injury (but I do feel he should have considered Cech’s safety and pulled out of it) but a pattern of such play. His work rate and ability to create situations for the defense are excellent though, and I think he actually left the game yesterday from exhaustion, having run his boots off the entire game.

Yesterday, I saw two very evenly matched sides and a fairly good game. It was Hunt’s goal that was the difference and on level, it was Reading that deserved the result. Everton started well but couldn’t maintain any pressure on the game after the first 20 minutes. After that, Reading played good football and kept at the Everton defense which eventually gave way before the half.

Reading kept control for most of the second half until that 80th minute controlled panic set in. Why does this happen to most teams that have a single goal lead? A good team, playing well, will just suddenly realize that they might win and start hoofing the ball up field when just 10 minutes earlier they were passing smoothly and keeping control of the play. And too often, I see teams get an equalizer. Do players really think that thru these worthless clearances, giving the opposition the ball in their own half over and over again, that they are more likely to win than by sticking to the tenant that wins games? Keeping possession is the best way to claim your three points, and it was during this controlled panic that James McFadden hit the post (followed by Johnson) and almost cost Reading their result.

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