Despite a commendable performance, Reading lost 1-0 at Elland Road to Leeds United on Tuesday evening. The Royals contained the home side for much of the game, but a second half close-range strike from Stuart Dallas was the difference. Marc McNulty had the chance to level the game up from the penalty spot late on, but his effort was saved by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
It’s those damn fine margins again.
How Reading lined up
Paul Clement made four changes to the side that drew 0-0 at Wigan Athletic on Saturday; the most eye-catching being a first league start for Danny Loader. The academy graduate partnered Yakou Meite up top in a 4-4-2 diamond.
Anssi Jaakkola was protected by a back four of Andy Yiadom, Tiago Ilori, Liam Moore and Chris Gunter, while the midfield was made up of Liam Kelly, Leandro Bacuna, Andy Rinomhota and John Swift.
Leeds United made a strong start to the game, almost opening the scoring immediately through Dallas. Pablo Hernandez found acres of space inside the area, but Dallas’ header was off target. Marcelo Bielsa’s team continued to cause problems for Reading, dominating possession and looking particularly threatening from out wide, but couldn’t quite find the breakthrough.
However, Reading would grow into the game as the half went on, looking increasingly confident in and out of possession. The decision to switch to a midfield diamond meant we had plenty of bodies in the middle, and the pacey strike partnership of Meite/Loader gave us an outlet to relieve the pressure.
Sky pundits (including Dave Edwards) highlighting Reading's disciplined midfield in the first half. Bacuna, Kelly and Rinomhota all doing good defensive jobs.— The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) November 27, 2018
The Royals’ best chance of the opening 45 came through academy man Loader. The youngster elaborately worked in Yiadom down the right and got the ball back, but his powerful shot was blocked by Meite. From there on in we restricted Leeds pretty well, to the extent that Alioski was forced into an embarrassing dive just before half-time - which Mike Dean saw through. Booking given.
Bielsa made two switches at the break to liven the game up from Leeds’ perspective, which is probably what did for Reading. The hosts had looked increasingly short of ideas in the first half, but Saiz and Clarke brought those after the restart. Yiadom and Jaakkola were both called on to keep the scores level - the former with a vital block just after the break, the latter showing his agility to deny Roofe’s powerful header with a one-handed save.
Although the Royals continued to stand up pretty well defensively, they were on the back-foot more and more. A goal was coming, and Leeds got that through Dallas; Yiadom being doubled up on, United getting the cross in for the Northern Irishman to bundle the ball home.
GOAL LEEDS— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) November 27, 2018
Roofe battles well in the box and his effort is pushed to Dallas who fires home.
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Down the other end, Reading were lacking presence in the final third. Hard-working Loader and Meite were tiring, having gone up against a defence more than capable of keeping the ball well, and neither were offering runs in-behind. Their best chance came through Loader who got onto the end of a cross whipped in by Gunter’s left boot, but his run was a little slow off the mark and his finish was easily saved by the ‘keeper.
Reading gradually pushed up the pitch, and made three attacking changes in an attempt to swing the match: Garath McCleary for Swift, Josh Sims for Meite, and Marc McNulty for Kelly. The last of those, McNulty, had a glorious opportunity to get the scores back to 1-1 late on, but Peacock-Farrell read his spot-kick, dived low to his right and denied the Scot.
In some ways, this match was similar to the West Brom game. Reading went into both fixtures with most fans expecting a walloping, but clever tactical changes from Paul Clement saw his side match superior opposition for the opening 45 minutes. However, where we collapsed at the Hawthorns, we very much didn’t at Elland Road. Leeds certainly offered a bigger threat after the restart, but Reading rode the storm well for the most part - bar the goal, obviously.
Reading can take heart from the performance even if they didn’t get anything out of it. Credit should go in particular to Andy N’Golo Rinomhota for an energetic, composed performance in the middle, and Danny Loader for not looking at all out of sorts in a high-pressure first league appearances.
We now go on to Stoke City at home this Saturday. Come on Urz!