Reading 1-0 Fulham (agg: 2-1): Yann Kermorgant fires Royals to Wembley
By Lewis Jones at The Madjeski Stadium
Last Updated: 18/05/17 4:25pm
Reading booked their place in the Sky Bet Championship play-off final after beating Fulham 1-0 (2-1 on aggregate) in a closely matched semi-final on Tuesday.
The winning strike came from the boot of Yann Kermorgant after referee Martin Atkinson awarded Reading a controversial penalty for a handball by Tomas Kalas.
Kermorgant and goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi were the heroes for the Royals with the shot-stopper making a string of fine saves to deny the west Londoners.
Reading, who have never been promoted through the play-offs in six attempts, will now face one of Sheffield Wednesday or Huddersfield, who play on Wednesday night, at Wembley on Monday, May 29.
Reading were forced into two changes as Jonathan Obita (hamstring) and Paul McShane (suspended) both missed out, which meant starts for Joey van der Berg and Tiago Ilori.
Chris Martin dropped to the bench for Fulham with Neeskens Kebano preferred up front.
The Royals only managed one shot on target during the first-leg visit to Craven Cottage but were sent out with more of an attacking ethos and Kermorgant forced Marcus Bettinelli into a fine one-handed stop on 13 minutes.
After a wobbly opening, Fulham settled into the tie with Ryan Fredericks causing big problems for makeshift Reading wing-back Tyler Blackett. The flying full-back stepped off his wing on 17 minutes but his low effort came back off the post after it evaded the clutches of Al-Habsi.
The Reading goalkeeper's gloves were stung twice more on 26 minutes as he answered the call with a splendid double save. Tom Cairney pinged a fabulous free-kick from 25 yards which Al-Habsi palmed straight to Sone Aluko, whose follow-up was brilliantly blocked by the Royals goalkeeper.
Reading came flying out of the traps in the second period and produced the match-winning moment on 48 minutes.
Kermorgant and Kalas battled for the ball down the left-edge of the area and following a slight push by the striker on the defender, Kalas deflected the ball away with his hand. The penalty was awarded and Kermorgant fired home his 19th and most important strike of the campaign.
John Swift should have made the game safe minutes later but somehow squirmed a shot straight at Bettinelli from three yards out despite having three quarters of the goal to aim for.
The remaining 30 minutes were predominantly played in Reading's half as they had to sit back and soak up Fulham's passing game.
The visitors rarely looked like breaking through, especially with Al-Habsi in such sparkling form. He pushed over a firm Kevin McDonald effort over the crossbar on 77 minutes before bravely denying substitute Martin from close range minutes later.
Martin had one last chance to force extra time with one of the last touches of the game but planted a header from 10 yards well wide, which meant it was the Royals who booked a date at Wembley.