Having watched Dimitar Berbatov orchestrate much of
Before Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz influenced the final half-hour here, Fulham had
lacked incision despite their eye-catching style and
“In Holland, we’ve got a phrase with blonde girls,” he said. “They look good from afar - but are far from good. We looked good, but without a purpose.”
Brunettes Berbatov and Ruiz, a 58th-minute substitute, teamed up for the first time this season and provided that much-needed sense of purpose later on. They look a compatible forward partnership in the long-term, rather than starting with Hugo Rodallega.
Jol is picking Rodallega because of his pace and ability to stretch defences, but Berbatov and Ruiz look a more classy and clinical combination, which is why Jol cannot afford the Bulgarian to be on the sidelines - especially ahead of a testing month that includes visits to Arsenal and Chelsea.
“I enjoyed playing with Dimitar,” said Ruiz, “He is a great technical player and we did well together.” Berbatov is understood to have been feeling a lot of pain, though. The medical staff assessed his injury at half-time and allowed him to play on after a pain-killing injection. He responded with a superb strike to put Fulham 3-2 ahead.
Ruiz had powered in Fulham’s first goal to make it 1-1 before setting up Chris Baird to head them into a 2-1 lead. Baird injured himself while celebrating but the club has confirmed that, although he has a twisted ankle, he will be fine for their next game against Everton on Saturday.
It was to Reading’s credit that they clawed their way back from 2-1 then 3-2 down - as Fulham yet again conceded a costly late goal. “It was just a mad end,” said defender Brede Hangeland. “We seem like we score more goals but also we’re a bit more vulnerable at the back. We need to find the right balance.”
Jol admitted before the match that Hangeland was his “only problem” in terms of agreeing to a contract extension. But the defender said: “I have always said I would like to stay.” Earlier in the game, Mikele Leigertwood had struck from 20 yards to give Reading their 1-0 lead at half-time. Reading’s first equaliser - which made it 2-2 - came from Garath McCleary’s drive. It was his first Premier League goal and continued his meteoric rise.
“Six years ago, I wasn’t really playing due to a broken leg,” McCleary explained. “I was going to go to university. I was 19 and I was at Bromley. I’m just so glad that people persuaded me to not give up and follow my dream.”
Hal Robson-Kanu scrambled in the final equaliser to complete a startling final five minutes, in which there were three goals. Luck certainly smiled on Reading manager Brian McDermott, who revealed afterwards that he had a winning betting slip from horse Frankel’s glorious win â “ but did not want to cash it in for sentimental reasons.
The only thing that he seemingly cannot buy, at present, is a win. Reading remain without a Premier League victory this season. McDermott, though, is not dwelling on the fact that November is a pivotal month that includes games against QPR, Norwich, Wigan and Aston Villa. “We’re trying to live in the moment,” explained the Reading manager.