Royals fight back to claim point at ChelseaThe Royals’ Under-21 contingent fought back from two goals down to force a 3-3 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Rowan Liburd had the Royals in front in the first half, but Chelsea stormed to a 3-1 lead as they began to turn the screw.
But Liburd’s second – and his eighth in six games since his summer arrival – got Reading to within touching distance again, and up stepped Liam Kelly to fire in a wonderful free-kick in the final minute of stoppage time to save a hard-earned point for Reading.
Royals goalkeeper Lewis Ward had to make an early save from Charly Musonda, before a driving run from Chelsea youngster Bertrand Traore almost resulted in a breakthrough but the Royals defence held firm. At the other end when Rowan Liburd won a flick-on for strike-partner Andrija Novakovich, the forward placed his effort just wide of the far post.
Chelsea had a flurry of chances in succession, with captain Tammy Abraham steering wide from almost point-blank range after a driving run from Jay Dasilva, and Bertrand again went close as he cut in off the right and shot past the far post.
Royals skipper Pierce Sweeney worked Blues stopper Bradley Collins as he rose highest to meet a corner, and soon after a breakaway from the hosts broke down at the last when Kasey Palmer ran into traffic in Reading’s box after charging downfield from inside his own half.
But Liburd kept up his goalscoring form with his seventh goal in six games as he broke the deadlock – he rolled his marker on the left flank, burst towards goal, and calmly slotted in with a placed effort which nestled inside the far post.
Reading goalie Ward was called upon to keep the advantage intact just before the half-hour – Palmer slipped in John Swift who looked favourite to score, but a brave low stop kept Reading ahead.
The Royals were proving defensively stubborn despite the attacking flow from the hosts – and Ward again reacted well when called upon as centre-half Dion Conroy tried to poke home a dangerous free-kick by Musonda near the left byline.
Within minutes the second goal of the game had come – but it was the hosts that grabbed it. Musonda’s quick feet on the left resulted in a mistimed tackle by Sean Long, and Abraham sent Ward the wrong way from the spot-kick. Musonda almost completed a turnaround before the interval after a jinking run, only for Ward to make a terrific instinct save.
But the hosts led for the first time shortly after the restart – after the referee called back a free-kick, a dangerous whipped set-piece from the right was perfectly weighted for defender Conroy to stoop and nod in unmarked from six yards.
After taking the lead, the hosts began to see more and more of the ball and began to besiege the Reading net. Ward again made a tremendous low stop to keep out Palmer when the forward had been slipped through on goal, but he was powerless shortly after when the ball sat up perfectly for the forward to strike on the half-volley to extend their lead.
The hosts had dominated possession for most of the second period, but the introduction of the Royals subs allowed them to keep the ball a bit more often. And sure enough, it was substitute Nana Owusu who cleverly glanced Long’s cross into the path of Liburd to hook home his second to bring the Royals back within a goal.
Another dangerous ball in from Long caused havoc in the Chelsea ranks – and as the ball fell for Liburd, he had the opportunity to slot in a hat-trick goal, only to see goalkeeper Collins to paw away his drilled effort from 12 yards. Soon after Sami Fridjonsson and Liam Kelly combined to feed Liburd with back to goal, but the striker pulled his effort marginally wide on the turn.
In the death throes of the game, it looked like Chelsea were going to hold out to win – but when Owusu was fouled on the edge of the area, Kelly placed a perfect free-kick to level the scores with seconds to spare.
Full-time: Chelsea U21 3 Reading U21 3
Chelsea U21: Collins, Aina, Conroy, Clarke-Salter, Wright, Dasilva, Traore, Swift, Abraham (Mitchell 87), Palmer, Musonda (Kiwomya 73 (Dabo 90)).
Unused subs: Baxter, Dabo, Scott.
Goals: Abraham (pen 39), Conroy (50), Palmer (65).
Reading U21: Ward, Long, Griffin, Shaughnessy (Husin 77), Hyam, Sweeney, Rinomhota (Owusu 72), Kelly, Liburd, Novakovich (Fridjonsson 72), Fosu.
Unused subs: Southwood, Jules.
Goals: Liburd (17, 80), Kelly (90+3).