Ali Al Habsi

Photo by Harry Hubbard/Getty Images

Championship Playoffs: Reading steal 1st-leg draw away to Fulham

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After 90 minutes of the Championship Playoffs semifinal between Fulham and Reading, it’s Jaap Stam’s Royals who hold the narrowest of advantages after securing a first-leg draw at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

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In Tuesday’s second leg, when no away-goals rule will be in effect, a home victory of any scoreline will see Reading through to the final; any draw would send the two sides to extra time; any Fulham victory would send Slavisa Jokanovic’s Cottagers to Wembley for the Promotion Playoff final.

The first leg was thoroughly dominated by Fulham, in terms of possession (58 to 42) and chances created (Reading took just three shots over the 90 minutes, with just one on target; Fulham, meanwhile, took 12 with two on target). It was Reading, however, who went ahead early in the first half, as Jordan Obita fired past Marcus Bettinelli from a nearly impossible angle, smashing the inside of the far post for 1-0 in the 53rd minute.

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Fulham needed just 12 minutes to respond, though, as a wonderfully free-flowing bit of build-up forced Ali Al Habsi into a diving save in the 65th minute. Unfortunately for the Omani international, the rebound fell no further than five yards out from goal, where Tom Cairney was the man in the right place at the right time and headed home to equalize.

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Reading’s earlier work was so nearly undone in the 80th minute, when Paul McShane earned himself a red card with a studs-up, knee high challenge on Kevin McDonald. The man advantage just about paid of for Fulham in the fifth minute of stoppage time, but Ryan Fredericks‘ angled effort flashed across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.