Reading would have been hoping to come away with the three points last night, but the nature of the result was nonetheless a huge boost. Having been 3-1 down at one point in the game, the young Royals fought back to claim a well deserved 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge. Here's how the match unfolded on Friday night.
This was a big game for Reading, who were looking to get points on the board following Monday's loss to league leaders Southampton. As for Chelsea, with one win, one draw and a loss from their opening three, their season hadn't really kickstarted yet.
The away side made just one changed to the side that lost 2-5 to Southampton, with Andy Rinomhota replacing Lisandro Semedo, who wasn't involved at all. That meant the introduction of Scottish defender Zak Jules to the bench in place of Rinomhota, who had been a substitute several days earlier. Reading lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with a number of faces familiar to fans of the senior team making an appearance - Shane Griffin, Tarique Fosu and Andriy Novakovich among them.
The game started off as a lively affair, with neither side dominating in the early stages. There were chances for Novakovich, Musonda and Traore, with the home side having a couple of efforts on goal from range. Indeed, as the half wore on, Chelsea grew more and more into the game, but were unable to trouble Lewis Ward in the Reading goal too much. Up the other end, Andy Rinomhota was looking lively down the right wing, without getting the Royals onto the front foot.
An opening goal was crucial to getting the game going, and it was Reading who got it in the 19th minute. Rowan Liburd burst down the left wing, before calmly slotting the ball across Bradley Collins into the bottom corner. It was a great display of pace, power and technical finesse to adjust his body before the finish.
The goal seemed to given Reading some momentum, with the visitors pegging back Chelsea increasingly well. Sweeney, Hyam, Griffin and Long looked comfortable at the back, distributing the ball well into the midfield. Plus, Long was getting forward well down the right wing, supporting Rinomhota. Up front, Rowan Liburd was causing Chelsea all sorts of problems - his strength and speed were a lot to handle. He was perhaps unlucky not to go into half time with a second goal - having seized on a loose ball at the back, Liburd burst through and stabbed a shot at goal, only to Collins deflect his shot away.
Reading wouldn't go into half time in front though, with Chelsea grabbing an equaliser not long before the break. The lively Charly Musonda, who had been one of the home side's best attacking players so far, was scythed down by Sean Long on the inside right channel of the penalty box. Captain Tammy Abraham stepped up, and dispatched the spot kick past Lewis Ward.
It was a harsh blow for Reading, who had played well after taking the lead, That said, Chelsea had very much always been in the game, so the 1-1 scoreline was a fair one at the end of the first 45.
Chelsea started the second half the brighter of the two, and were on the front foot pretty much from the off. 10 minutes in, they made it 2-1 through Dion Conroy. A lofted free kick was sent over from the right wing, with the no.3 heading past Lewis Ward. From then on, Reading were struggling to cope with the home side, particularly the highly impressive Charly Musonda. The Belgian wreaked havoc in the Royals' backline, dancing through on a number of occasions, and seeing a shot from 25 yards fizz just wide of the post.
Indeed, the hosts seemed to be home and dry when Kasey Palmer collected a throw in from the right wing, found some space in the box and lashed a volley home into the far side of the goal. It was a disappointing goal to concede, with a simple set piece opening up the backline, and Palmer finding room to shot too easily.
Things were looking bleak for the visitors, but a couple of substitutions in the 71st minute looked to alter that. Rinomhota and Novakovich, who had both been isolated in the second half on the right and up front respectively, were withdrawn for Nana Owusu and Sami Fridjonsson. That was a clever double change, adding much-needed fresh legs in the middle of the park. Reading now seemed to play a 4-2-3-1 formation to wrestle back control of the game, with Liam Kelly supporting Rowan Liburd.
There seemed to be an immediate positive effect, with the flow of the game now shifting in Reading's favour. Then again, a big factor in that was the withdrawal of Charly Musonda for Chelsea, who had threatened to win the game by himself, such was the danger he posed.
Reading got back into the game in the 80th minute, when Sean Long's cross was glanced on by Nana Owusu into the path of Rowan Liburd. The striker deftly guided a finish over the top of Bradley Collins into the roof of the goal.
The away side started pressing more and more from then on in, creating a number of chances for the dangerous Liburd. A Chelsea defender miscontrolled a cross inside his own area, with Liburd seizing on the ball and seeing his smashed shot very well saved by Collins. A few minutes later, a pass was fed into Liburd, who used his strength well before turning and finishing just wide of the post.
Reading weren't done yet though, and pushed with determination for the equaliser. Liam Kelly had been quiet up until now, but was instrumental in the final act. Bursting forward on the left, the young Irishman was hacked down for a free kick. The resulting set piece was cleared out, but substitute Nana Owusu, collecting the clearance, was similarly brought down on the edge of the area. Reading's diminutive central midfielder Liam Kelly stepped up to take it, and arrowed the ball across the face of goal into the far top corner: a great strike worthy of a dramatic equaliser.
As the full time whistle blew, it was very much Reading who were the happier side. Chelsea had seen a comfortable 3-1 lead slip, when the game looked dead and buried. The Royals can be very happy with how they dug in throughout the match, and with the determination they showed to draw things back level.
On the night, there were a number of stand-out performers for the Berkshire side. Lewis Ward was excellent in the Reading goal, and perhaps kept the score down in the second half. At the other end, Rowan Liburd was a menace to the Chelsea defence with his strength and finishing - expect to see him in the first team in years to come.