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16:05 17th January 2015

Late Ruiz winner breaks Royals hearts

  • Late Ruiz tap in steals win for Fulham
  • Pavel Pogrebnyak's thumping header had equalised for the Royals
  • 21 shots from the Royals, 5 on target
  • Reading backed by 2,731 travelling fans

A heartbreaking late goal from substitute Bryan Ruiz gave Fulham all three points at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon.

An even first half had finished goalless before Alexander Kacaniklic broke the offside trap to slide the Cottagers into a 1-0 lead.

Reading, however, responded well - as former Fulham man Pogrebnyak thumped home a header from Oliver Norwood's corner kick to equalise.

If anyone it was the visitors who looked more likely to snatch a win, as they put plenty of pressure on the home defence - but Costa Rican international Ruiz bundled in fellow substitute Cauley Woodrow's header in stoppage time to end Steve Clarke's run of four games without defeat.

Fulham: Bettinelli; Grimmer, Hutchinson, Bodurov, Stafylidis; Fofana, Tunnicliffe, Parker (c), Kačaniklić (Ruiz 78); Rodallega (Woodrow 74), McCormack
Subs: Kiraly, Burn, Roberts, Williams, Ruiz, Woodrow, Dembélé.

Booked: Bodurov (handball 33), Kacaniklic (foul 52), Tunnicliffe (74 unsportsmanlike conduct)

Reading: Federici, Gunter, Obita, Hector, Pearce (c), Norwood, Williams, McCleary, Robson-Kanu, Cox (Blackman 84), Pogrebnyak (Mackie 84).
Subs: Andersen, Kelly, Cooper, Karacan, Guthrie, Mackie, Blackman.

Booked: Pogrebnyak (foul 68), McCleary (foul 77), Cox (foul 84), Gunter (foul 90)

Attendance: 17,831 (2,731)

The Royals arrived at Craven Cottage backed by a sell out away following of almost 3,000 fans, and they almost had something to cheer within five minuts as Alex Pearce's header from Oliver Norwood's corner was cleared off the line.

Just seconds later at the opposite end of Craven Cottage and Hugo Rodallega spurned a golden chance, firing wide from inside the area after dashing onto Ross McCormack's cutback.

Steve Clarke's men started to grow in confidence as the half wore on, with Hal Robson-Kanu curling narrowly over the bar 15 minutes in. Simon Cox also fired off target from outside the box ten minutes later, whilst Fulham stopper Marcus Bettinelli had to be alert to gather Pogrebnyak's stabbed effort after another dangerous Norwood corner kick.

It was an even contest, though Reading certainly offered more shots at goal - Norwood next to have a crack as his right footer drifted wide from 25 yards.

The Cottagers did rattle the woodwork shortly before the break, Adam Federici doing brilliantly to palm away as a header came in from a corner, before Rodallega's follow up smashed off the post.

Second Half

It was 10 minutes into the second period that Fulham took the lead. The returning Kacaniklic broke the offside trap to scamper through on goal, before finishing coolly past Federici.

Moments later McCormack's free-kick threatened to make it two - but curled inches wide of the post. Pearce then got a header in at goal from Norwood's free-kick, but it was easily held by Bettinelli.

Reading looked to have received their wake up call; good interplay between McCleary and Cox ended in the latter squirming a shot away, only to see the home goalkeeper once again kick away from danger.

But the equaliser was coming. Norwood's corner again providing the threat, former Fulham man Pogrebnyak the finish as he thumped home an unstoppable header.

It was certainly developing into an open game; McCleary firing over from 20 yards with 69 minutes on the clock, before Cox saw a goal ruled out for offside after bundling home a deflected Pogrebnyak header.

The big Russian was involved in plenty of the action, stretching every fibre to nod a diving header off target following another McCleary's cross in the 82nd minute.

The Royals kept pushing as Nick Blackman came ever so close to converting another McCleary through ball, but the home side would lift the roof of Craven Cottage as they stole the three points in the depths of injury time.

Two substitutes combined for the winner, as Cauley Woodrow nodded a cross back into the six yard box, where Costa Rican international Bryan Ruiz bundled home. A bitter pill to swallow for Clarke's side, who had looked more likely to get the winner in the closing stages.