Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship


READING 1 BIRMINGHAM 2

Reading: Y Meite (61)
Birmingham: Jon-Miquel Toral (29), Jon-Miquel Toral (37)

Reading paid the price for a lack lustre first half performance against a well organised and physical Birmingham City side. It was a poor first half showing from the Royals in every respect. There was a marked lack of energy and creativity in midfield with Joao and Meite tightly marked Reading failed to register a shot on target before half time. The Royals defence were practising social distancing around their own penalty area and City's Toral took full advantage scoring two goals from the edge of the box leaving Reading an uphill task in the second half. Ejaria and Olise were disappointing to say the least. Revitalised by the introduction of Samedo and Esteves, Meite reduced the lead with a close range finish and then won a penalty. Joao capped an indifferent performance by failing to tuck a way the spot kick and Reading lost the momentum gained from the goal even though Dean’s dismissal in conceding the penalty had reduced City to ten men for the last twenty minutes. City continued to waste time at every opportunity and broke up the play with incessant fouls all over the pitch and comfortably saw out the ten additional minutes of stoppage time to claim the points.

City came with a game plan which worked perfectly. Every goal kick was played long into Reading's half and the whole team worked their socks off to keep it there. Joao and Meite were tightly marked and were never allowed turn. City were dominant in the air and anything played long by Reading was gobbled up by their centre backs. When they attacked they moved the ball quickly and only the offside flag prevented them from scoring on a couple of occasions. The warning signs were there but Reading continued to mooch around waiting for something to happen. Reading contributed further to their own downfall giving City too much time on the ball to pick out a pass making it easy to find the gaps in the defence which were numerous. Reading enjoyed a lot of possession (64%) but the majority of their passes were sideways or backwards. The obsession with possession was stifling Richards attacking flair. Rarely have I seen him so reluctant to take on his man and get into the box. Ejaria went back to his old habits of wanting to have too many touches before picking out a pass or simply running into trouble. Toran’s goals after twenty-nine and thirty-seven minutes were hardly a surprise in view of Reading’s performance. The body language of the players said it all. Heads had dropped and there was little evidence resilience in the face of adversity.

Reading stepped up the pace after the interval but it was not until Samedo and Esteves replaced Olise and Holmes that Reading looked like opening up the City defence. After sixty-one minutes Andy Rinomohta raced on to a pass from Joao and a delivered a cross which Miete poked past Etheridge to bring Reading back into contention. For the first time in the match the City defence looked vulnerable. Joao was now dropping deeper to find space. He won the ball in the air and nodded the ball into Meite’s path bursting through on the right. As Miete shaped to shoot Dean brought him down. It was a second yellow for Dean. So Reading had a chance to level the scores from the penalty spot and City were down to ten men. After a lengthy delay Joao’s poor kick was easily saved by Etheridge and that proved to be the turning point in the game. City managed the game well and Hogan had a good chance to increase their lead but put in wide. Joao also had sight of goal but his effort drifted wide. With the fiasco of multiple substitutions, time-wasting (notably from City ‘keeper Etheridge) and a lengthy delay for Meite to receive treatment, ten additional minutes were played but it was not long enough for Reading to find an equaliser.

The result was more about attitude than the quality of football. City committed twenty-five fouls, received six yellow cards, and wasted time at every opportunity. There was a gritty determination about their play which Reading are going to have to learn how to deal with if they are serious about promotion. Without Laurent and Rinomohta, Reading could have lost by more than one goal this evening. Olise, for all his talent, is struggling with the physicality of Championship football and in many respects Samedo had more impact in central midfield when he came on for the past half an hour. Joao too has gone missing for long periods in the recent games. Everyone in the team has to on their toes for the full ninety minutes. Talent gives this team an edge over other teams but work rate is equally important in winning matches. Paunovic is still learning about this league and about his squad. Success is unlikely to come playing the same way against every opponent. City provided that lesson this evening.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 44 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.