Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship
READING 0 MIDDLESBROUGH 2
Middlesbrough: A Fletcher (22), M Bola (29)
Middlesbrough executed a thoroughly professional away performance to consign the Royals to a third consecutive home defeat. From the kick off Boro passed the ball well, pressed well, and scored two very good goals. Once in the lead they rarely looked likely to concede. Their defensive organisation made the result an inevitable outcome as Reading dominated possession but only managed three attempts on target in the entire game. Reading stepped up their effort in the second half but lacked the cutting edge required to put Boro under any sustained pressure. In fact, had Neil Warnock’s side been more clinical on the break they could easily have won by a greater margin. Two good saves from Raphael keep their hopes alive until the latter stages of the game.
Reading started brightly with Samedo making a penetrating run into the heart of the Boro defence but the Boro defence covered well to snuff out the danger. Superb play by Olise ended with an inviting pass into Rinomhota’s path as he steamed forward but the finish was disappointing and the ball bobbled past the post. It was the sort of situation which really should have resulted in the first goal and then it might have been very different story. Boro compressed the play whenever they could which was clearly a tactical decision to stifle Reading’s passing game – and it worked.
Boro took the lead after twenty-two minutes when Laurent was somewhat harshly penalised for a challenge on the half way line. The resulting free kick dropped behind the Reading back line, and with Samedo getting his starting position all wrong, Fry was out of his line of vision and got behind him to nod the ball across the goal for Fletcher to poke home from close range. It was poor defending but finished well by Boro. Ejaria shaved the same post as Rinomhota four minutes later after Samedo and Laurent combined well to set up a chance on the edge of the box. Three minutes later Morsy was being shepherded across the penalty area by Laurent until he spotted Bola lurking just outside the box and rolled the ball to him. Bola’s finish was a good any you are likely to see this season flying into the roof of the net even though Raphael did manage to get a hand to it. It was a classic example of what happens when you don’t take your chances, or in Boro’s case when you do!
Even at that point, in spite of Reading dominating possession, Middlesbrough looked in control and passed their way forward assuredly when they won the ball. Richards seemed to lack focus generally and received a yellow card just before half time for a reckless challenge Fisher on the half way line. It was not a great surprise to see replaced by Gibson at half time. Boro almost killed the game in first half stoppage time when Howson slid a god ball behind Reading’s unusually dishevelled defence for McNair. Raphael got done well to make save but had McNair placed his shot better he would certainly have made it three nil.
Along with Gibson coming on as full back, Samedo made way for Esteves, introduced to play wide on the right, as Reading went in search of a goal. Boro might have scored again as Reading were exposed on the break. It was alarming to see Raphael appear close to the half way line with Boro in possession! Fortunately for Raphael and Reading sufficient players had made good recovery runs to prevent a disaster. Reading gradually seemed to lose heart. Ejaria was having one of those days when he kept getting caught with the ball and there was a lack of movement off the ball generally. Joao has found it hard to get into the games recently, and in his desperation to get involved he is dropping increasingly deeper to get on the ball. Also now opponents know he is the focal point of the Reading attack and they surround him with three players Reading’s attack is significantly hampered.
Puscas and Aluko were introduced too late in the game to have much impact as Reading looked beaten long before the final whistle. Morrison showing typical leadership, grit, and determination, produced Reading’s best attempt on goal with surging run and powerful strike from outside the box which Bettinelli could only parry. No-one was following up to knock in the rebound. McIntyre, who had another solid game tested the ’keeper with a header in stoppage time which meant two of Reading’s three attempts on target came from the centre backs. Worrying times indeed for Velkjo Paunovic as Reading’s from becomes patchy and the chasing pack close in on the top six.
This Championship game took place 161 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.