Chelsea survived a scare as they came back from behind at home to newly-promoted Reading to win 4-2 on Wednesday evening. It had all the hallmarks of a routine win after Frank Lampard gave the Blues the lead from the penalty spot but efforts from Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Guthrie turned things around before the interval. The Royals defended stoutly throughout but were undone by errors from a goalkeeper and an assistant referee. Firstly, Adam Federici let a Gary Cahill shot squirm past him and then the linesman incorrectly allowed Fernando Torres' late winner stand. Branislav Ivanovic put some gloss on the scoreline with an injury-time goal on the break after Federici was caught upfield trying to make amends.
Roberto Di Matteo brought Ramires straight back into the starting line-up after the Brazilian was ill for the Premier League opener at Wigan. Ryan Bertrand was the man to miss out so that meant Eden Hazard switching to his favoured left-wing role. The only other change in the Chelsea team was the return of Cahill for David Luiz. Cahill was expected to help deal with the physical threat of Reading target-man Pogrebnyak.
While Pogrebnyak retained his place, a change of system did see Brian McDermott axe opening day goalscorer Adam Le Fondre. Midfielder Jem Karacan came in for the striker with Gareth McCleary also replacing Hal Robson-Kanu - as he had done midway through the second half of Saturday's home draw against Stoke.
Chelsea retained their 4-2-3-1 system from the win over Wigan. Torres was nominally the lone forward but found himself well supported by his ambitious midfielders throughout. Ramires played as a genuine winger and caused Ian Harte some difficulties in the early stages. Although Lampard was playing a deeper role behind Juan Mata, he frequently pushed forward into advanced positions. That left Mikel to perform the holding role alone as the Blues morphed into a 4-1-4-1 formation.
The withdrawal of Le Fondre meant Reading abandoned the 4-4-2 from the Stoke game and played a 4-5-1 system with a huge emphasis on the midfield breaking to support Pogrebnyak whenever they could. McCleary worked hard to ensure Ashley Cole had plenty to think about defensively, while Jobi McAnuff also produced a tireless display. Reading's first-half pressing ensured Chelsea were unable to settle.
Di Matteo certainly went for the win, introducing Oscar for Ramires before really upping the ante when he brought on Daniel Sturridge for Mikel. The Royals were forced to deal with a swarm of attacking midfielders until Chelsea had re-established their lead, at which point Di Matteo attempted to shore things up by removing Mata in favour of Raul Meireles.
Brian McDermott waited until the final 20 minutes before making any changes and who could blame him as his team bravely kept the champions of Europe at bay. But when Cahill's shot found a way past Federici he took the bold step of introducing Le Fondre for Karacan. It wasn't long before Pogrebnyak was withdrawn for Noel Hunt but there was little McDermott could do to stem the tide and the late introduction of Robson-Kanu had little impact.
For all Chelsea's spending in the transfer window there was only one new signing who started for the Stamford Bridge side and that was £32million man Hazard. The Belgian made the best possible start in winning an early penalty for Lampard to convert. And while not everything came off for the 21-year-old, he has a tremendous work ethic to go with his undoubted quality and was always a threat to Chelsea's newly-promoted opponents - as shown by his unselfish assist for the fourth goal. Oscar's involvement came from the bench and he will be pleased with his role in the turnaround as the Blues effectively won the game 3-0 during his spell on the field.
It was an eventful evening for the four summer signings in the Reading line-up. Pogrebnyak's stunning header produced the early equaliser and he led the line with impressive strength against John Terry. Guthrie was also on the scoresheet after his free-kick was fumbled by Petr Cech. And it was another fellow new-boy McCleary who provided the cross for the first goal, showing considerable skill up against another high-profile opponent in Cole. The only disappointment was for Chris Gunter who appeared mesmerised by Hazard before foolishly conceding a penalty early on.
Reading could have few complaints about the penalty award that led to the opening goal of the game. Gunter certainly didn't argue after he needlessly went to ground and allowed Hazard to fall over his outstretched leg. Lee Mason allowed the game to flow whenever possible and was perhaps a little lenient to keep his cards in his pocket as much as he did - particularly after one robust Terry challenge before the break. The contentious decision in this one came courtesy of Mason's assistant referee who allowed Torres' crucial goal to stand. Although a close call, it was not a difficult one to spot and Reading will be rueing that error as they were coping with Chelsea's waves of attacks admirably well.
Like Manchester City before them on Sunday, Chelsea got out of trouble impressively. They were fortunate to benefit from the errors of others but to misquote the famous line of golfer Gary Player 'the more you spend, the luckier you get'. With attacking talent such as Oscar to introduce from the bench, Chelsea can expect to dig themselves out of games like this. Yet to get into top gear but with six points from two games, Di Matteo will be happy to emerge from the first week of the Premier League season unscathed.
Reading took the momentum from their last-gasp point gained against Stoke at the weekend and threatened to parlay it into three more here at Stamford Bridge. The accepted wisdom is that the supposedly weaker sides must net first in clashes like this but the Royals were the better side for long periods after going behind and looked capable of taking a two goal lead at one stage. If they can take the positives from the way they pressed a team as good as Chelsea and perhaps cut out the errors that cost them here, Reading will surprise a few people this season.