Championship - Reading held by Cardiff in first leg

Fri, 13 May 21:43:00 2011

Reading were held to a 0-0 draw by Cardiff City in the first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final at the Madejski Stadium.

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We still await the first goal of this season's play-offs following Nottingham Forest's stalemate with 10-man Swansea on Thursday night.

After these two sides shared the points on both of their meetings during the regular season, this tie remains wide open ahead of the second leg at the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday.

Cardiff striker Craig Bellamy is a doubt for that fixture as he came off after just 17 minutes. The Welshman limped off feeling his hamstring, and manager Dave Jones will now be hoping he is fit for next week's return fixture in the Welsh capital.

Royals owner John Madejski was sat in the director's box with new royal in-laws the Middletons, and they saw the home side look threatening on the break although rarely troubling Cardiff goalkeeper Stephen Bywater.

Cardiff began the brighter in a frenetic first half that typified what the Championship play-offs are all about, and Bellamy forced a top-drawer save from Adam Federici after 12 minutes. The Wales striker, whose season-long loan from Manchester City has been key in Cardiff's run to the play-offs, latched on to Peter Whittingham's curling pinger and forced a fingertip save from the Australian keeper from a wide angle.

Reading's Ian Harte had earlier fired a free-kick over the bar, and the veteran left-back almost created the opener when his wickedly curling corner was completely missed by Bywater and flashed right under the nose of Royals captain Matt Mills.

As the match became more tempestuous, with referee Mark Halsey showing three yellow cards, Reading edged closer towards breaking the deadlock. Hal Robson-Kanu forced a good reaction stop from Bywater at the near post with an audacious backheel flick before Noel Hunt steered wide after a determined run into the box from Jobi McAnuff.

It looked as though the high tempo of the first half would not relent after the break when Long headed Harte's corner back across goal for Mills to just miss making contact with an outstretched boot following the restart.

However, soon after that chance Robson-Kanu picked up an injury and was replaced by Mathieu Manset, and the game never recaptured its intensity as players on both sides began to feel the strain of a long season.

Whittingham looked to pounce on to a square pass from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and strike from range but had to dodge the referee. While he managed to swivel and catch his strike well, it sailed wide of Federici's goal.

Both managers seemed reticent to make tactical switches given the number of times the physios were called on to the field. It was not until the final five minutes that Reading boss introduced midfielder Brian Howard to try and grab a late goal as the clock on their home advantage rapidly ticked down.

The only consolation for those watching a second half as tepid as the first was fiery is that the second leg, which demands a winner is produced, promises much more than the first half of the tie ended up delivering.

Tony Mabert (@tony_mabert) / Eurosport

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