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Reading FC 0-0 Espanyol: Surprisingly Violent

A sparring match in more ways than one, Reading's final pre-season friendly ended goal-less as the clash with Espanyol was more memorable for two red cards and some feisty challenges over any goalmouth activity.

Reading: Bond (Al-Habsi), Gunter, Hector (c) (McShane), Ferdinand, Obita, Norwood, Quinn (Akpan), Tshibola (Fosu), Williams, Blackman (Cox), Pogrebnyak (Sa).

Lining up in front of a busy Madejski Stadium the Royals took the shape of a free-form 4-4-2 that once again saw Danny Williams pressed high up the pitch in support of Russian front-man Pavel Pogrebnyak. The Catalonians deployed few first-teamers, by the name of Anaitz Arbilla and Jose Canas, in a similar 4-4-2 system. A hardy bunch of away fans made the early noise in the south-east corner, which was promptly shut down with chants of "who are ya!" by the Reading fans!

First-half

The hosts were free to knock the ball around as Espanyol sat back and allowed Reading to attempt a speedy, passing style of football. Worryingly, the first 20 minutes saw more injuries than shots, although Royals fans will be pleased to hear that it was two visiting players who received treatment in the opening exchanges.

It soon became clear that the wing-backs were free to press forward; Chris Gunter's dangerous run forced a last-ditch block before Jordan Obtia found Danny Williams, who volleyed wide. However a knock to Pog meant an early change was due, and as we peered towards the bench Nick Blackman, out of nowhere, found himself through on goal but shot wide. Changes were made: Orlando Sa replaced the Pog and the Periquitos got in on the fun by bringing on former Manchester City striker Felipe Caicedo.

For a friendly there was plenty of bite, Williams receiving a booking for a slightly high challenge that caused some frank exchanges between the Spaniards and the German-American. Espanyol came into the game a bit more through Caicedo's hold-up play and an error or two from Reading in their own half, but Bond was rarely troubled. Neither was Francesco Bardi when a free-kick routine saw Blackman rolled the ball in the area and do very little before being swarmed by opposing defenders.

Caicedo should have netted when given the freedom of West Berkshire in the area, but a scuffed sidefoot went wide of a worried Bond's goal (and it looked like the lino gave it offside anyway). The visitors were having the better of the play as the half came to a close, but it did so at 0-0.

Second-Half

Tarique Fosu was brought on by Steve Clarke which prompted a shift in personnel, sticking to the 4-4-2 but with Stephen Quinn supporting Sa and Williams dropping onto midfield. A slip from Gunter almost allowed the Magico in but once more a block prevented Bond from being tested. At the other end Sa made his first significant contribution to the game with a turn and run at goal, stinging sub 'keeper German Parreno's fingertips with a fine 20-yard effort.

The hour-mark saw changes from Reading as Ali Al-Habsi got a run out in goal along with new signing Paul McShane and forward Simon Cox. The Irishman took to the left-wing and Fosu switched to the right, emphasising Clarke's willingness for a high-pressing midfielder to chase the game when out of possession.

The 66th minute brought drama as Obita's forceful challenge in front of the dugouts brought a fierce reaction from the visiting bench. It was a two-footed tackle and the left-back was sent off, as was Alvaro Gonzalez after a strong reaction from the Espanyol defender and Clarke was forced to put Williams into right-back and play a 4-4-1. It livened the crowd up, for sure, as chants of "En-ger-land" came from the home crowd.

A yellow card came for Lluis Lopez for a hack on Sa as the clock ticked towards the final 15 minutes, as the game became more memorable for each side's attempts to make their opponent not make it out of pre-season alive. Hope Akpan was given a run-out for Quinn, who got a great reception and was rested ahead of the season opener with Birmingham City in seven days time.

The sense of urgency unsurprisingly failed to increase too much towards the end, a dangerous Espanyol free-kick was well defended and Cox's good combination play with Gunter led to a chance, but the final ball - as it had all afternoon - was found wanting. The final whistle blew, 0-0 the scoreline.