Reading overcome Fulham to set up play-off final at Wembley
Championship play-off semi-final second leg, Madejski Stadium – Reading 1 (Kermorgant pen 49) Fulham 0 - Reading win 2-1 on aggregate
Yann Kermogant netted a second-half penalty as Reading overcame Fulham in the Championship play-off semi-finals, winning 1-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate.
The 35-year-old called on his experience to slot home from a spot-kick after Fulham defender Tomas Kalas carelessly handled in his own box.
Fulham spurned a number of opportunities in the first leg which ended 1-1, and were made to pay for further missed opportunities at the Madejski Stadium where Ali Al-Habsi was the hero. With the scores locked at 0-0, the former Bolton and Wigan goalkeeper produced a stunning double save to deny Tom Cairney and Sone Aluko.
The turning point of the tie came only four minutes after the restart when Kalas moved his hand to the ball under pressure from Kermorgant and referee Martin Atkinson was given little choice other than to award the penalty, which the Frenchman tucked away in confident manner.
The Omani shot-stopper was called upon once again as he acrobatically tipped over a goal-bound shot from substitute Kevin McDonald, as Fulham – the joint highest scorers in the division – piled on the pressure.
The visitors failed to find an equaliser, however, and it was the Royals who booked their place at Wembley. They will meet either Huddersfield or Sheffield Wednesday on May 29 for the £170m prize of Premier League football next season.
Reading fans celebrateGetty Images
Lady Luck shines on Reading. Reading make it to their first play-off final since 2010-11, but they have been beaten in all five of their previous play-off campaigns. Will this year be any different? The Royals were second best throughout both legs, but showed the characteristics of a winning team by containing their opponents and showing a clinical touch in attack, as well as benefiting from old Lady Luck. This could well be their time.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Ali Al-Habsi (Reading): His team mates immediately ran to their veteran goalkeeper after the final whistle to acknowledge his contribution on a massive night for Reading. Made at least three crucial stops and proved the difference between the sides.
Reading celebrateGetty Images
13’ - READING CHANCE! Kermorgant is teed up inside the Fulham box and fires a shot at goal... but Bettinelli is down quickly to parry the ball out for a corner.
17’ - POST! Fredericks weaves his way through the Reading box before striking a low shot at goal which veteran goalkeeper Al-Habsi does well to push onto the post before gathering on the second attempt.
28’ - GREAT SAVES! Cairney curls the ball over the wall and the ball is destined for the top corner until Al-Habsi somehow claws it off the line with a one-handed save. Aluko shoots from the loose ball but the veteran quick to his feet and makes a superb second stop
55’ - MISS! But how did he miss? Gunter fizzes a ball across the face of goal to leave Swift with a simple tap-in from a few yards out... but he sends it straight into the arms of the Fulham goalkeeper.
61’ - FULHAM CHANCE! A glorious opportunity for the visitors, but Reading survive! Fredericks gets down the right channel and cuts it back for Piazon whose goalbound shot is brilliantly deflected narrowly wide by Moore and out for a corner.
76’ - SAVE! Aluko dances his way past a Reading defender on the wing and then tees up McDonald for a shot 12 yards out but Al-Habsi does brilliantly to get a fingertip to the effort.
Daniel Williams of ReadingGetty Images
Reading have reached their fourth play-off final, their third at the second tier level, and will make their fifth appearance at Wembley.