READING, England (AP) — Chelsea squandered a two-goal lead with three minutes remaining to draw 2-2 at Reading on Wednesday, virtually ending its English Premier League title hopes and piling more misery on under-fire manager Rafa Benitez.
The European champions looked certain to win after goals by Frank Lampard and Juan Mata either side of halftime, but substitute Adam Le Fondre scored in the 87th minute and grabbed the equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
"It's difficult how to explain how we drew this game," Benitez said. "We were controlling the game for 85 minutes . everyone could see the game was under control for us until the last minute." Chelsea is 12 points behind league leader Manchester United in third with 14 games remaining, and Benitez will surely come in for more criticism with the team winning only one of its last five matches in all competitions. On Sunday, Chelsea drew 2-2 at third-tier Brentford in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
"We all take responsibility. We don't blame anyone: It's for us to analyze why we didn't kill the game off, and to work to stop the mistakes," Benitez said. "We're still in a really good position in the table, but it could have been really better."
The point lifted Reading out of the relegation zone on goal difference ahead of Wigan, with Aston Villa dropping to second from bottom. Le Fondre has scored six goals as a substitute this season, including a late double in a 2-1 win at Newcastle on Jan. 19.
"Of course I'd (like to) start with him, but I'm trying to find a way to get results," Reading manager Brian McDermott said.