Chelsea beat Reading 4-2 at Stamford Bridge to go top of EPL
Two wins from two games for reigning European champions
Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic with late goals for Chelsea
Malaga beat Panathinaikos 2-0 in Champions League qualifier
Late goals from Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic gave European champions Chelsea a 4-2 win over promoted Reading at Stamford Bridge Wednesday.
The hard-fought victory put Chelsea top of the early standings in the English Premier League with two wins from two games.
But they were made to work hard by the battling visitors, who led 2-1 deep into the second half after Frank Lampard had put the home side ahead with an 18th-minute penalty.
Chelsea’s new signing Eden Hazard was again influential, winning a penalty after being pulled down by defender Chris Gunter.
Veteran midfielder Lampard easily beat Adam Federici and last season’s Champions League winners looked set for a comfortable victory.
But in a dramatic turnaround, Russia international Pavel Pogrebnyak – who played for Fulham in the Premier League last season – leveled with a firm header from a Garath McCleary cross before the visitors went ahead as Danny Guthrie’s free kick found its way past Petr Cech.
It was a soft goal to concede by the home goalkeeper, but midway through the second half Chelsea were level after an even worse blunder by Federici.
He allowed a speculative long-range effort from defender Gary Cahill to go under his body, similar to his mistake in the 1-1 draw with Stoke in Reading’s EPL opener on Saturday.
Chelsea pushed forward in search of a winner, but there was an element of fortune when Torres struck from close range as replays appeared to indicate the Euro 2012 winner was offside as he received a pass from England defender Ashley Cole in the 81st minute.
Federici’s miserable evening was complete when the Australian came up for a corner in injury time, but it was cleared quickly and Torres then Hazard set up Ivanovic for the clinching fourth goal.
The three points put Roberto Di Matteo’s men top of the EPL table for the first time since November 2010 after a fixture brought forward due to Chelsea’s involvement in the UEFA Super Cup, where they will play Spain’s Europa League winners Atletico Madrid in Monaco on Friday.
Meanwhile, troubled Spanish club Malaga took a step nearer their first appearance in the Champions League group stage with a 2-0 win over Panathinaikos of Greece in the first leg of their final qualifier.
Malaga saw several top players depart in the close season but Jesualdo Ferreira’s men were too good for their Greek visitors with first-half goals from Argentine defender Martin Demichelis and Portuguese winger Eliseu.
Cypriot side AEL Limassol will take a 2-1 lead over Anderlecht of Belgium into the second leg, while Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb lead Maribor of Slovenia by the same score.
Belarus side BATE Borisov were 2-0 winners against Hapoel Kiryat Shmona of Israel, while a superb goal from Ismaily earned a 1-1 home draw for Portugal’s Braga against Italian visitors Udinese, who had led through Dusan Basta.