Late Goal Robs Sunderland Of Glory At Reading
The last time we visited Reading ... 2007/8 READING 2 SUNDERLAND 1READING: Hahnemann, Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Hunt,Harper, Gunnarsson, Convey (Long 84), Doyle, Kitson.Subs Not Used: Federici, Cisse, Lita, Bikey. SUNDERLAND: Gordon, Whitehead, McShane, Higginbotham, Collins,Chopra (Stokes 87), Yorke, Leadbitter, Murphy (Wallace 62),Jones, Cole (Etuhu 62).Subs Not Used: Ward, Harte. Att: 24,082
Sunderland were left cursing the football fates - and Barclays Premier League officials - for the second week running after Stephen Hunt was awarded a stoppage-time winner for Reading.
Seven days ago Roy Keane's side, who are now back in the bottom three, had thought they had beaten Aston Villa only for a 90th-minute strike to be ruled out.
This time referee Steve Tanner, having consulted with a linesman, ruled Black Cats goalkeeper Craig Gordon had been unable to prevent Hunt's shot crossing the line.
That made Michael Chopra's penalty equaliser redundant, with a rare goal from Ivar Ingimarsson having given Reading what was then a deserved lead.
In the opening 45 minutes Sunderland looked every inch a struggling side but had the recalled Andrew Cole taken the game's first opportunity it might have been a different story.
The veteran was put through by a pass from fellow 36-year-old Dwight Yorke and with home captain Graeme Murty having made sure the flag stayed down, it was up to Royals goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann to deny him his first goal since April.
The American was hurt making a double stop and not long afterwards Gordon, needed treatment too after Bobby Convey had slid in and caught him with a boot to the head.
It was the Scot's first game since shipping seven at Everton a month ago but he showed no after effects by coping easily with a long-range chip attempt by Dave Kitson, who had previously hit the top of the net with a much better effort.
Referee Tanner had used the advantage rule on that occasion but constantly pulled up Sunderland men for fouls and had booked Darryl Murphy and Grant Leadbitter before the half-time whistle.
Gordon prevented Stephen Hunt from putting Reading ahead just before the half-hour mark following a moment of magic from the in-form Kitson on the left of the box.
The striker managed to get in a cross to the back post despite the presence of three defenders and when Hunt outjumped Danny Collins Gordon had to make an instinctive block with an arm. Hunt claimed a goal but on this occasion the ball had not crossed the line even though the goalkeeper was behind it.
The rest of the half saw Sunderland concede free-kick after free-kick but a defence that at no point looked particularly composed held out.
Cole hit the side-netting early on after the break and Chopra, back in the side as a right winger, came close with a 25-yard drive - but it was not long before Sunderland had a narrow escape at the other end.
Again it was Hunt, who cut inside from the right before planting a shot that beat Gordon but rebounded back into play off his right-hand post.
Kenwyne Jones had been kept quiet and became the third Sunderland player to be booked for a challenge on Ibrahima Sonko around the hour mark.
Keane made a double change with Murphy and Cole replaced by Ross Wallace and Dickson Etuhu in a switch to a 4-5-1 formation but Reading eventually broke the deadlock with 20 minutes remaining.
The irrepressible Hunt was fouled by Danny Collins near the right touchline and Ibrahima Sonko met James Harper's free-kick with a header that Gordon could only parry straight to Ingimarsson, who made no mistake from all of two yards out.
Kevin Doyle then had a chance to wrap up the points but could only fire across goal and wide, a fault he had been guilty of in a similar position before half-time.
That allowed Jones his moment and it was a most difficult decision for referee Tanner to make. Sonko came steaming in and certainly did not make contact with the ball. Contact with the player was minimal if non-existent and Jones appeared to jump over his man before tumbling over.
Chopra made no mistake from the spot to record his first goal since the second game of the season and the former Newcastle man then hurt himself in the process of forcing Hahnemann into a tip-over from 25 yards.
Jones almost snatched victory when he eluded the Reading back-line but Hahnemann was able to block his attempt to squeeze the ball through his legs.
Sunderland were on top as the minutes ticked away but last-minute goals are a Reading speciality, with Shane Long having provided one to down Newcastle and Harper previously having done the same to Wigan.
This time Long, who had come on for Convey, was the provider with a cross to the unmarked Hunt beyond the back post. In came the shot and this time Gordon could not prevent it from crossing the white paint.
Sunderland were bitterly aggrieved and a number of players complained the officials after the final whistle - but their search for that elusive away win must now be carried over into 2008.
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