Fulham draw with Reading in first leg

Fulham 1 Reading 1

Fulham’s promotion hopes remain in the balance after Tom Cairney’s equaliser salvaged a draw from a flat performance in the first leg of their play-off semi-final.

Aside from a few brief spells, Slavisa Jokanovic’s side struggled to get out of a fairly low gear against a well organised Reading, who looked far more tactically and physically competitive than when they were beaten 5-0 at Craven Cottage in December.

Jordan Obita had fired the Royals ahead early in the second half but an error from his team-mate, goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi, presented Cairney with the leveller.

Reading, though, will be without skipper Paul McShane for the second leg after he was sent off 10 minutes from time for catching Fulham midfielder Kevin McDonald with a high foot.

Goalscorer Cairney had unleashed the game’s first shot at goal after a nervy first 10 minutes, but his left-footed effort from 25 yards bent narrowly away from the right-hand upright.

It took another 10 minutes before Fulham finally showed a glimpse of the attacking fluidity that has become their trademark this season, Scott Malone and Floyd Ayite linking up well on the left flank before the latter’s low cross was scuffed just wide by Sone Aluko.

Reading, though, were getting under the home side’s skin and they took the lead having won the ball in Fulham territory after a few robust challenges.

The ball was fed to Obita and the left wing-back struck a crisp low shot in via the far post.

Yann Kermorgant almost scored an audacious second, fashioning a volley from distance which just cleared the bar, but all of Reading’s good work was undone by Al Habsi’s mistake.

Malone was sent away down the left and his cross appeared too close to the goalkeeper, but he palmed it out into the path of Cairney, who nodded home.

Fulham were largely on top after that without creating too many chances, even after the dismissal of McShane following a knee-high challenge on McDonald.

Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Kalas, Ream, Malone; McDonald, Johansnen; Aluko (Cyriac 86), Cairney, Ayite; Martin (Kebano 60).
Subs not used: Button, Odoi, Sessegnon, Parker, Piazon.