Fulham 2-4 Reading
Fulham 2 (Ruiz 70, 78)
Reading 4 (Robson-Kanu 12, 61, Le Fondre 77, Karacan 85)
The Royals romped to a fantastic victory at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon, as Nigel Adkins picked up his first win as Reading boss.
It was a thrilling game of football by the Thames and the visitors thoroughly deserved the three points, which came courtesy of a brace from Hal Robson-Kanu coupled with late goals from Adam Le Fondre and Jem Karacan.
The Cottagers did cause a scare thanks to a Bryan Ruiz double, but couldn’t deny the visiting fans their day in the Bank Holiday weekend limelight.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Riise (Richardson 56), Senderos, Hangeland (C), Berbatov, Ruiz, Karagounis (Rodallega 28), Duff (Kacaniklic 70), Riether, Emanuelson, Enoh
Subs: Etherige, Frimpong, Richardson, Hughes, Rodallega, Manolev, Kacaniklic
Reading: McCarthy, Gunter, Kelly, Mariappa, Morrison, Karacan, Guthrie, McAnuff (C) (Blackman 73), Robson-Kanu (Carrico 81), McCleary Pogrebnyak (Le Fondre 70)
Subs: Taylor, Harte, Pearce, Carrico, Blackman, Hunt, Le Fondre
On a balmy afternoon at Craven Cottage, Alex McCarthy immediately showed why he’s enjoyed so many plaudits since returning from injury – brilliantly denying Bryan Ruiz from close range with an instinctive stop.
At the other end Jobi McAnuff’s superbly flighted corner cam inches away from finding former Cottager Pavel Pogrebnyak at the far post, only for a deft touch from Brede Hangeland to nick the ball away for a corner kick.
With their confidence growing as the game went on, the Royals looks bright – and were presented with a great opportunity to take the lead as the returning Hal Robson-Kanu was clipped for a penalty right on the edge of the area.
The Academy product picked himself up and kept his cool to slot past Schwarzer, notching his sixth goal of the campaign.
McLeary then flashed an effort wide from distance, before with 24 minutes on the clock Berbatov’s looping header almost caught out the on-rushing Alex McCarthy – who adjusted well to gather the ball safely.
Guthrie then blazed over as space opened up on the edge of the box, before Pogrebnyak was presented with half an opportunity eight yards out – but slipped on the turf before getting his shot away.
And when chances did fall to a white shirt – McCarthy continued to perform heroics in the Reading goal.
Substitute Hugo Rodallega looked destined to score as the ball fell to him on the half volley six yards from goal, only for the Royals’ stopper to somehow block his rasping strike.
The visitors continued to frustrate Martin Jol’s men until the break, who were greeted with boos from the home support at the half time whistle.
Again the Royals started with their tails up – as McAnuff dropped a pass into Jem Karacan, whose brave sliding challenging saw the ball deflect off Shcwarzer and narrowly wide.
Fulham riposted as Berbatov delicately scooped a ball into the path of Ruiz, who saw his fizzing shot well saved by McCarthy.
Schwarzer was tested by both Karacan and McCleary as more slick passing from the men in yellow caused problems for the Cottagers, whilst Pogrebnyak came within inches of doubling the lead against his former paymasters as he stumbled in the six yard box with the goal at his mercy.
The home side briefly rallied, but it was Nigel Adkins’ men who would double their lead. A superb ball from Danny Guthrie unleashed McCleary down the left wing – his initial shot was blocked, but Robson-Kanu was on hand again to curl home a majestic second.
Despite a dominating performance it wasn’t all going to go Reading’s way – as Bryan Ruiz pulled a goal a back with 20 minutes remaining by coolly slotting through the legs of McCarthy.
McCleary again caused trouble on the left wing after he was flicked through on goal by substitute Adam Le Fondre, but could only sky his shot over Schwarzer’s crossbar.
And ‘Alfie’s impact would become even more prevalent seconds later. Karacan’s lofted pass set Reading’s number nine racing into the box, and the club’s top scorer superbly stayed on his feet to knock the ball past Schwarzer and sidefoot home.
Not to be deterred the men in white responded instantly as the tempo of a quite fantastic game of football refused to relent. Alexander Kacaniklic’s well weighted cross found the run of Ruiz – who coolly headed past McCarthy.
Reading’s crossbar was then rattled by Rodallega with ten minutes remaining, as the visiting fans prepared for an inevitably tense finale at Craven Cottage.
Jem Karacan, however, had no nerves. Le Fondre was again involved, holding the ball up inside the area before laying off to the Turkish midfielder – who slammed home a cracking effort to bag his first top flight goal and spark wild celebrations.
The lively Rodallega tried to respond yet again as his bullet header crept narrowly past the post, before an almost farcical goalmouth scramble saw the Royals clear off their own goalline, allowing McCarthy to fall gratefully on top of the ball.
That was that - and Nigel Adkins deservedly had his first win as Reading boss.