Premier League: Reading 1 Stoke City 1

18 August 2012 18:46

Reading salvaged a late 1-1 draw against Stoke City on their return to the English Premier League after late drama at the Madejski Stadium.

Debutant Michael Kightly opened the scoring on 35 minutes after some poor goalkeeping from Adam Federici saw his deflected shot go through the hands of the Australian.

When the lively Garath McCleary was clumsily brought down by Dean Whitehead, who was sent off for the challenge, Adam le Fondre coolly put away his first Premier League goal to snatch an unlikely point for Reading a minute from time on Saturday.

The opening goal looked as though it would come aerially as Reading’s Kaspars Gorkss and Stoke’s Jonathan Walters both threatened.

Ireland international Walters was lively and followed his near miss with a shot that was saved by Federici.

The Australian goalkeeper, though, lost his concentration a few minutes later.

Gorkss’ poor headed clearance had Reading in trouble as it fell straight to the unchallenged Kightly.

But, despite initially saving the winger’s shot, Federici inexplicably let it drop into the net under him to give the visitors the lead 10 minutes before half-time.

Walters and le Fondre both threatened before the break, but Stoke held firm to take their 1-0 lead into the interval.

Stoke could have extended their lead had it not been for the heroics of Reading defender Gorkss.

Whitehead played a magnificent cross-field pass to Peter Crouch, who nodded it across the goal to Walters, but the 28-year-old could not sort out his feet and Gorkss cleared the danger excellently.

After a largely scrappy half, Reading found their equaliser to secure a late point.

The impressive McCleary darted towards the Stoke area, playing a nice exchange with Noel Hunt.

As he got into the area, Whitehead hauled him down, and despite Reading taking the shot, the referee had no option but to point to the spot.

Former Sunderland man Whitehead was shown his second yellow card and le Fondre beat Asmir Begovic from the penalty spot.

Reading almost snatched all three points through veteran Ian Harte, whose free-kick whistled just over the bar to see his side settle for a draw.

Scottish Premier League wrap: Celtic salvage point

18 August 2012 18:46

Kris Commons came to Celtic’s rescue in injury-time to salvage a 1-1 draw at newly promoted Ross County in the Scottish Premier League.

The defending champions had the best chance of an otherwise subdued first half when a Victor Wanyama header rattled the crossbar from a Commons corner in the 36th minute.

County were to shock Neil Lennon’s side after the break when Richard Brittain’s 25-yard strike flew into the top corner to hand the home side their first ever goal in the top flight.

Charlie Mulgrew attempted to bring Celtic level in similar fashion but his curling set-piece thundered off the woodwork just past the hour mark.

It took until injury time for Celtic to find the back of the net, with Commons able to slot the ball home after County goalkeeper Michael Fraser could only parry Tony Watt’s low drive.

Elsewhere, Hearts played out an enthralling 2-2 draw at home to Inverness.

An early Arvydas Novikovas goal put Hearts ahead, with a John Sutton penalty just before half-time doubling the home side’s advantage.

Inverness got back in the game with a penalty of their own from Andrew Shinnie in the 58th minute before Conor Pepper popped up in the 94th minute to salvage an unlikely point for his side.

Motherwell recorded a 2-1 away win over Kilmarnock thanks to a first half double from Jamie Murphy either side of a Gary Harkin’s strike.

In the day’s other games, Hibernian and Aberdeen recorded 2-1 away wins over St Mirren and St Johnstone respectively.

Premier League: QPR 0 Swansea City 5

18 August 2012 18:35

Swansea delivered a dominant display to run out 5-0 winners against a deeply out-of-sorts QPR at Loftus Road.

Michu and Nathan Dyer both struck doubles for the victors, who gave new manager Michael Laudrup a dream start to life in the Premier League.

With a quick tempo to the opening few minutes, it was Swansea who struck the first blow, with Michu’s strike from the edge of the box finding a way past Robert Green in the opening 10 minutes for a rapid start.

In what was quickly turning into a clinical display, Dyer grabbed a goal after the break following some good work from Wayne Routledge, before Michu got another, with Routledge again the provider.

The game became more stretched from then on and the hosts were beginning to tire in the heat, but there was just enough time for Dyer to control an excellent Kemmy Agustien ball over the top before slotting home, while substitute Scott Sinclair made it five with a neat finish after a misplaced pass from Nedum Onuoha.

With both sides enjoy some of the ball in the early stages, it was the visitors who struck first as early as the eighth minute, with new boy Michu putting Laudrup’s side ahead after a seemingly feeble shot was not dealt with by QPR goalkeeper Rob Green.

The hosts responded well and went close just moments later when Junior Hoilett curled an effort just wide of the right-hand post with Michel Vorm well beaten.

A rare error from Vorm almost gifted QPR an equaliser, when after a spell of concerted pressure in the opposition’s half, Fabio clipped a delightful ball over the top which Hoilett almost punished the out-of-position goalkeeper.

With an equaliser looking more likely than a second goal for Swansea, Adel Taarabt went close to scoring an equaliser for the hosts.

Jonathan de Guzman created the next chance of the match for Swansea, striking a free-kick from 30 yards out that Green did well to tip around the post for a corner.

The second half started with Hoilett almost earning a penalty in the opening minute.

But it was Swansea who got that crucial second goal, Michu popping up with the strike in the 53rd minute, in what was quickly turning into a dream debut for the Spaniard.

With the onus now on Mark Hughes’ side to come out and try and get a goal, Swansea broke on the break again, with Routledge setting up Dyer to coolly slot home past Green in the 61st minute after being put through one-on-one with the QPR back four out of position.

Swansea soon made it four, with Dyer again among the goals, after latching on to substitute Agustien’s chipped ball over the top, before bringing it down superbly and slotting it home past Green in the 71st minute.

Laudrup’s side delivered an emphatic finish, with Sinclair pouncing on yet another self-inflicted defensive error from QPR at the back to finish with an accurate left-foot strike into the far corner in the 81st minute.

With Hughes seething on the sidelines, Danny Graham went close to making it six with a deft header after a neatly worked corner, but the final whistle spared them any further embarrassment.

Premier League: Fulham 5 Norwich City 0

18 August 2012 18:28

Debutant Mladen Petric netted a brace as Fulham thrashed Norwich City 5-0 at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

Damien Duff and Petric had the hosts 2-0 up at half-time, before the Croatian, Alexander Kacaniklic and substitute Steve Sidwell completed the rout on the opening day of the English Premier League season.

It took 18 minutes for the first chance to arrive but Bryan Ruiz, gifted a poor clearance from Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy, could only lob harmlessly over the crossbar.

Five minutes later and Ruddy was involved again, but this time it was him showing his best, with a smart save down to his right to deny John Arne Riise’s angled drive, before he also denied Petric.

Fulham started to dictate play and took a deserved lead in the 26th minute, although Chris Hughton would have been furious with his side’s defending.

Riise was given time on the halfway line and the Norwegian hit a superb cross-field pass for Duff, who took a touch and flicked his finish past Ruddy.

Fulham were comfortably in charge of proceedings and doubled their lead in the 40th minute with a debut goal from former Hamburg striker Petric.

Ruiz had been denied, but from the resulting corner Petric headed past Ruddy – despite the best efforts of a man on the line – to double the home side’s advantage heading into the break.

In the 54th minute the game was over as a contest, thanks to a second goal from Petric.

Another neat passing move involving Mahamadou Diarra, Moussa Dembele and Ruiz allowed Petric to find space 30 yards from goal.

When the ball arrived at the Croatian’s feet, he rifled a left-footed shot which deflected off Michael Turner and nestled in the back of the net.

Twelve minutes later and Petric turned provider as Fulham cut the Norwich defence apart once more to make it 4-0.

The imperious Dembele again found space and attacked the Norwich defence before feeding Petric, whose terrific back-heel freed Kacaniklic, who converted coolly.

Sidwell replaced Ruiz and the former Aston Villa midfielder got his name on the scoresheet in the 86th minute from the penalty spot.

Another wonderful pass from Dembele found Hugo Rodallega, who was brought down by debutant Turner, and Sidwell smashed the spot-kick past Ruddy and into the roof of the net.

Premier League: West Ham 1 Aston Villa 0

18 August 2012 18:16

Sam Allardyce made a happy return to the Premier League as Kevin Nolan’s close-range effort secured three points against Aston Villa.

Allardyce and West Ham will make no apologies for their means of securing Premier League survival this season as free kicks and set pieces look to be the focal point of attacks at Upton Park.

It was a dead-ball situation which helped provide the only goal of the game as Villa’s reliance on an offside decision which was never awarded was punished by Ricardo Vaz Te, who pulled a pass from the byline for Nolan to sweep home five minutes before half-time.

Despite the defeat, Paul Lambert would take pride in his side’s opening to the game as his new recruits seamlessly interlinked in midfield to dominate possession.

A cause for concern for the Aston Villa manager will undoubtedly his team’s inability to fashion clear-cut chances for Darren Bent, along with the manner of their conservative second-half showing which failed to fully test the rigours of West Ham’s back line.

In spite of the electric atmosphere created by the Upton Park faithful, Allardyce’s men were timid in the opening exchanges as Villa dominated possession.

Brett Holman spurned the first chance of the match, failing to test Jussi Jaaskelainen from range.

West Ham were a contrast to their opponents. Aside from Mohamed Diame, who offered composure on the ball in central midfield, the hosts showed little intricacy in attack, the extent of which reduced Carlton Cole to fruitlessly chase a series of aimless long punts to the final third.

But after a set piece brought West Ham their best chance of the game after 36 minutes as Kevin Nolan’s free kick whistled past Shay Given’s goal, it was another dead-ball situation which provided the hosts with the lead.

A Mark Noble free kick was swept into the box and as James Collins flicked the ball on, the Villa defence stood on ceremony for an offside decision which never came.

Ricardo Vaz Te collected the ball on the byline and pulled a pass back to Nolan who calmly slotted past Given.

West Ham started brightly after half-time and saw a penalty shout turned down after Cole raced onto Guy Demel’s superb threaded pass on the right flank and was hauled down by Ron Vlaar.

The hosts continued their positive opening to the second half and were able to quash the spells of possession which helped Villa dominate before the interval.

Both Delph and El Ahmadi struggled to replicate their interplay, while Bent was starved of service in attack as he played on the shoulder of Winston Reid.

The visitors struggled to muster any chances of note, while West Ham continued to probe.

Vaz Te offered a glimpse of his talents which a dazzling dribble on his side’s right flank which left Nathan Baker in a spin.

West Ham had the chance to seal the points 12 minutes from the end as Cole fired his header wide of Given’s post from Matthew Taylor’s free kick, while the man who came on to replace the striker for his home debut, Modibo Maiga, saw his effort cleared off the line in injury time.