Date:Monday March 5 2007
Well, I for one had hope that we may be able to defeat the Gunners on Saturday. And from the Arsenal fans comments who have visited this site, I was not alone - albeit they were the pessimistic gooners!
It seemed like the timing of this fixture could be right for us; coming after a narrow defeat to United and winning seven out of the eight Premiership fixtures we have had this year you could forgive any Rz for fancying our chances against what was at best a severely lacking Arsenal side.
But all the excitement must have been clouding my vision, Arsenal is Arsenal by any measure and whether it be Baptista instead of Henry or Walcott instead of Rosicky they are still undeniably the best footballing team in the country - and that was to be Reading`s downfall.
Unlike so many teams who have visited the Emirates Stadium this season, Reading went out there with the intent of taking the game to Arsenal and actually trying to beat Arsene Wenger`s boys at their own game.
This intent was clear from the line-up alone, Coppell started with two strikers (Dave Kitson and Leroy Lita) instead of the solitary one he opted for against the big four teams this season.
But although Reading had the right intentions, they simply were not going to beat Arsenal at their own game, imagine Luke Skywalker taking on Darth Vader before he had learnt to use the force; brave? Yes, courageous? Yes, but also very naļve.
Reading were awash by a sea of red with white arms from the first whistle, valiantly the Royals tried to keep them from goal but you simply can`t fight a storm like that.
What struck me most about Arsenal was their ability to break with such pace and precision; whenever Reading ventured into Arsenal`s half they had to make sure they did it right because if the venture ended with a tackle five red shirts would be galloping immediately towards the visitors` goal.
Fortunately for Reading Arsenal were on typical form, all the possession and all the chances but not quite an end product. Hope was still glimmering for the blue and whites as the half time whistle blew to a 0-0 scoreline.
But the light at the end of the tunnel was gone from sight when Andre Bikey brought down the enigmatic Gael Clichy in the box. Gilberto Silva converted the penalty and immediately Arsenal had a hunger to score more.
We could have easily gone down by a lot more so it was nice to Cesc Fabregas knock one in for us at the end. As is so often the case when we are behind, Reading gave their best performance in the dying moments but try as they might the game was just out of reach.
So another loss for the Royals but a lot of positives to take from the game, an uncompromising performance against one of the leagues best teams, Dave Kitson`s first league start since August, a cameo from Kevin Doyle and a team performance that shows the team is quite capable of finishing in the top six, but I wont get carried away just yet.
Meanwhile Arsene Wenger commended Reading`s performance, the Arsenal manager was quite happy with the breath of fresh air that was Reading`s approach to the game:
'Reading are a correct side - they are one of the few teams who have come here and tried to play.
'They are very good passers, they are dangerous on set-pieces and in the top two or three in terms of their physical strength in the whole league.'
'It looks like it is their year and what is good for them is that their belief will be strengthened by their last two results.'
Steve Coppell was also full of praise for his team`s performance:
'In the end it could have been a draw for sure, over the course of 90-odd minutes, it was a fairly tight contest. They had controlled possession for long periods.
'They are so creative, but we responded to that quite well and still played a full part ourselves in trying to create.
'I said before this week that we could lose all three games and still play really well, and that was to be the case.
'All three games I feel we had played a full part in the game, we were not just on the ropes or on the defensive all the time.
'We were always prepared to come forward here today. In view of our earlier defeat - 4-0 at home - it was quite a daunting prospect."
Looking forward, Reading can enjoy a fortnight`s rest with European football in the week and FA Cup ties at the weekend.
The next game Reading will play will be the 17th March when we entertain Pompey and hope to get back to winning ways.
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