Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship


READING 3 BOURNEMOUTH 1

Reading: J Laurent (24), T McIntyre (31), L Joao (43)
Bournemouth: J Stanislas (85)

A devastating first half performance gave Reading an unassailable half time lead over promotion rivals Bournemouth. There was a score to settle from their previous encounter this season when the Royals surrendered a two goal advantage to suffer a frustrating defeat. The transformation of Reading has been gradual since that fixture and their focus, energy, skill and organisation was simply too much for a strong Bournemouth side. Bournemouth made three changes at half time, but in spite of dominating possession, found Reading's defence a tough nut to crack. Courtesy of a basic defensive error from a free-kick the Cherries clawed a goal back but Reading closed the door on hopes of a comeback in the final phase of the game to achieve the victory their performance deserved.

Danjuma served a warning of Bournemouth’s attacking potential early in the game with a good strike from outside the box which required a decent save from Raphael. Swift was provided with Reading’s first good opportunity when Joao rolled an inviting pass back to him inside the box. Swift dragged his shot wide. Reading were gradually taking control in midfield where Laurent and Rinomhota were typically energetic and effective. Ejaria continues to improve under Veljko Pauniovic and this evening his performance moved to a new level. In the past he has been guilty of slowing things down by hanging on to the ball too long or running into trouble by taking players on a the wrong time. Not this evening. His movement was excellent, and the timing, accuracy and weight of pass was outstanding.

Reading took the lead in the twenty-fourth minute. Olise’s corner found McIntyre beyond the far post. McIntyre headed the ball back across goal, and when the ball was partially cleared he was first to react rifling in a powerful low shot which was blocked but fell kindly to Laurent lurking in the edge of the six yard box. Laurent gleefully hammered the ball high into the net. Basically Reading were playing with greater intensity and reaped the reward. The second goal was not long in coming. Rinomhota was scythed down as he was about to burst into the box and Olise’s curling free kick was saved by Begovic and popped up for that man McIntrye again to react quickly and smash in the loose ball from close range. As the free kick was being taken Lerma blatantly shoved Joao in the back to propel him into an offside position. Perhaps it would have been better for his team had he been more focussed on defending instead of cheating.

Reading were now in full flow and their third goal emphasised the quality of their play. Richards broke up a Bournemouth attack and slipped the ball forward where Ejaria and Swift exchanged passes to set Ejaria free. Ejaria found Joao with a perfect pass just outside the box. Joao had a lot to do, but his finish was sublime. Surrounded by Bournemouth defenders his deft touch, rolling the ball across his body with the sole of his foot, left Lewis Cook on his backside before stroking the ball past Begovic. Bournemouth manager Jason Tindall was seen shaking his head, no doubt as bemused as his defence by the quality of Joao’s finishing.

Bournemouth have strength in depth in their squad and were able to make three significant changes at half time. Wilshere, Brooks and Smith came on to introduce more of an attacking threat, and to large extent it achieved that aim. Forcing a string of corners the visitors mounted pressure on the Reading defence but once again the intensity of Reading’s play, this time defensively, maintained their lead. Reading were always threatening on the counter attack. Swift had two chances to kill the game off completely courtesy of good work by Ejaria. The first attempt was easy for Begovic to save and the second soared over the bar. Swift’s work rate was as high as I have ever seen but twice he gave the ball away in situations which might have cost Reading a goal. It was a relief, and tactically no surprise, when he was replaced by Samedo. Reading were forced to bring on Aluko to replace Ejaria who appeared to receive an innocuous poke in the eye.

Into the final twenty minutes Bournemouth seemed to be running out of ideas and Reading increasingly enjoying possession in Bournemouth’s half. With five minutes of regulation time remaining Wilshere tempted Laurent into an untidy challenge just outside the box. Stanislas, a striker of Premier League quality, drove the resulting free kick through the defensive wall inside the near post past an agitated Raphael who had every right to expect, having set up his wall correctly, that option had been covered. Samedo and Joao, unforgivably, had moved to create a gap wide enough to allow the ball to pass though the wall. Morrison was clearly aware of the issue and Joao certainly didn’t need to be told. It was the only blot on an otherwise perfect defensive performance, and an error which can easily be addressed. Joao undoubtedly overall demonstrated his willingness to help out defensively this evening.

There was a hint of anxiety with about ten minutes of playing time (including six minutes of stoppage time) remaining, but Reading were looking just as likely to score as their opponents as time ran out for Bournemouth. Paunovic brought on Esteves, Meite and Yiadom for last few minutes. Esteves had two good chances. The first he lashed over the bar and the second he drove firmly at Begovic. Meite had a half chance but didn’t hit it cleanly. The availability of players returning from long term injuries will only help maintain the momentum Reading seem to be gathering in their quest for a top six finish.

In a dominant first half display by Reading, one point which went almost unnoticed, was the number of fouls dished out by Bournemouth. There were nineteen again today in total, a similarly high count to recent games. Lewis Cook arguably could have been shown yellow on three occasions for fouls on Rinomhota and Olise. Late, dangerous challenges and shirt pulling were amongst his repertoire in a busy first half. I wish referees would stamp it out earlier in the game because it does appear to be tactical. Reading have had more than their share of injuries so far this season.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 32 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.