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21:47 1th February 2011

Report: City snatch late point

Cardiff 2 (Bothroyd 47, Bellamy 90+7)
Reading 2 (Leigertwood 20, Manset 90)

A controversial 97th minute goal from Craig Bellamy denied Reading all three points away to high-flying Cardiff City.

Mathieu Manset's 90th minute goal looked to have won it for Reading, but a questionable decision allowed Bellamy a free kick 25 yards out, and he curled superbly into the corner seven minutes into injury time, after a minimum of four minutes was displayed by the fourth official.

It was desperately harsh on our boys - although in the cold light of day 2-2 is still a good result.

Despite losing Shane Long to an early injury, the Royals were on top in the first half, with Jimmy Kebe at his magnificent best. Great wing play from the Malian allowed Mikele Leigertwood to score with a very good strike that took a nick off Paul Quinn on its way in.

Kebe forced a top class save from Tom Heaton just before the break, and City levelled just after half time, much to our chagrin. Sub Michael Chopra's presence forced Adam Federici's kick to run short to Jay Bothroyd, and the England international scored neatly.

We rode out a spell of City pressure, including a Mark Hudson effort against the bar, and into the closing stages Noel Hunt missed a good chance, before sub Chris Burke spurned an absolute sitter.

Manset turned home from close range after a very nice move involving Jem Karacan and Noel Hunt, and he looked to have won it, only for City to snatch a point late on.

We can be proud of our efforts, although naturally we wanted all three points. Few times will run City this close on their own patch, and we performed very well in one of the most difficult fixtures of the season.

Cardiff (4-4-2): Heaton; Quinn, Naylor, Hudson, McNaughton; Olofinjana (Chopra HT), Ramsey, Whittingham, Bellamy (c); Bothroyd (Parkin 86), Emmanuel-Thomas (Burke 76)
Subs: Marshall, Blake, Keinan, Koumas
Booked: Hudson (foul 63), Chopra (foul 90)

Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Griffin, Harte, Ingimarsson, Mills (c); Karacan, Leigertwood, Kebe, McAnuff; Church (Manset 71), Long (Hunt 18)
Subs: McCarthy, Cummings, Khizanishvili, Tabb, Robson-Kanu
Booked: Hunt (handball 86), Mills (dissent 90), McAnuff (timewasting 90)

Ref: G Ward

Attendance: 21,405

Starting XI team news
Reading made one change, the fit-again Jimmy Kebe starting in place of Hal Robson-Kanu. Mathieu Manset was named on the bench after being cup-tied for the Stevenage game. Cardiff named a strong XI including Aaron Ramsey, back on loan from Arsenal.

First half
The home side had the first effort of note, Craig Bellamy's free kick clipping the woodwork after the foul was questionably won by Jay Bothroyd.

Shane Long had picked up what looked to be a hip injury in the first five minutes, and he battled on for more than ten minutes but was clearly unable to continue and Noel Hunt came on in his place.

The change did not affect us though, and Jobi McAnuff tested Tom Heaton with a curling shot after a nice run.

We then broke the deadlock with a fine goal, and full credit must go to Jimmy Kebe for superb play to create the chance. He had already turned Lee Naylor inside out on a number of occasions, and he left him for dead down once more, leaving him prone on the floor. He pulled back a fine ball to Mikele Leigertwood on the edge of the box, and his fine strike nestled in the corner via a deflection.

Reading had their tails up, and McAnuff went on a sensational run but just overran it by inches and Heaton was out before he could shoot.

City then had another moment of panic as Hunt's neat cross was just ahead of Church, forcing Heaton to punch clear under pressure.

The home crowd began to get a little anxious, and their boss Dave Jones swapped Jay Emmanuel-Thomas to the left wing, most likely to help Naylor against Kebe. Bellamy took his place up front, and soon shot straight at Federici from outside the area.

Cardiff briefly upped their game around the half hour, and Matt Mills & Ian Harte got good blocks in on efforts from Emmanuel-Thomas and Peter Whittingham.

We then hacked clear off the line from a corner. We broke quickly, and McAnuff should have slipped Church in on the break but a defender got back in time.

Kebe started another incisive move just before the interval with more excellent play, and McAnuff hooked a volley goalwards but it was comfortable for Heaton.

There was still time for Kebe to work more magic, and he forced Heaton into a top class save after keeping possession despite the attention of four players on the edge of the area, unleashing a cracking left foot effort that Heaton saved low to his left.

Second half
The Bluebirds made a change at half time, bringing on Michael Chopra, and immediately the striker was making his presence felt. He was in close attendance as as Federici kicked clear from his hands, and his presence caused him to kick short, the ball falling to Bothroyd 40 yards from goal.

The England striker had plenty to do, and held off a defender, rounded the 'keeper and finished well. Federici led the protests to the officials but there was nothing doing.

City had their tails up, although their momentum was delayed somewhat when the referee needed treatment after being barged over accidentally by a City player.

We had some defending to do, and Mark Hudson crashed a header against the bar before Chopra's follow-up was superbly blocked.

City's pressure did not last too long though, and Ian Harte was not too far away with a free kick that went narrowly over the bar.

Inside the last 20 minutes Mathieu Manset entered the fray, and he was almost on the end of a good break by Kebe.

Hunt then had a cracking chance following good work by Andy Griffin and Jem Karacan, but sadly couldn't keep his header down.

If that was a good chance, it was nothing compared to an absolute sitter that City sub Chris Burke blazed over from eight yards with the goal at his mercy after Federici palmed away Bellamy's shot. It was possibly Burke's first touch, but there was no question he should have scored.

Manset then had a very good chance with a header following good play from Karacan, but headed wide of the upright under pressure.

But we were not done yet, and scored a 90th minute winner to secure a superb win. The ball broke to Karacan on the edge of the box, and he showed wonderful composure to play in Hunt instead of shooting. The Irishman crossed low, and Manset was on hand to bundle home from close range.

Then, into injury time, Reading were absolutely furious with the award of a free kick in a great position, and Bellamy rammed the sword of injustice into our hearts with a wonderful finish. It was a great goal, but so, so harsh on us. It came in the 97th minute, after four minutes' minimum had been shown.

It was desperately difficult to take at the time - although in the cold light of day 2-2 is still a good result.

Few teams come here and give City such a rough ride - they will no doubt feel they got out of jail. This is one of the hardest games of the season, and we were moments away from taking three points.

    Data provided by Press Association