Reading FC entered the second stage of the Jose Gomes era with a convincing 3-0 win over recently relegated Cardiff City on Sunday, George Puscas hitting a brace on league debut with John Swift adding the extras.
The game opened as the Madejski Stadium crowd would have hoped. An open affair, it was also feisty as Neil Warnock’s side earned a yellow card within five minutes of what might well be Colin’s final visit to Berkshire as a manager.
Both sides initially gave the air of competent, mid-table Championship teams. But when Reading turned the screw, the Bluebirds gave way.
The opener came from a moment of clear thinking from Puscas. The £8million man took the ball down the right flank and only ever envisaged burying it in the top corner until the ball hit the net seconds later.
Cardiff’s defence was, unusually for a Warnock side but not unusually for one containing Sean Morrison and Leandro Bacuna, slow and disorganised. This was masterfully capitalised on by Gomes’ 3-5-2.
Previewed in the midweek penalties win over Wycombe, in which Puscas looked a tad average, the setup allowed Reading to overload the middle on Sunday with the excellent duo of Ovie Ejaria and John Swift steaming forward, leaving Pele back. Andy Yiadom and Omar Richards ran up and down their wings with audacity. Puscas and Lucas Joao were the physical, technical strikers that Cardiff couldn’t bully.
The second goal came down the right once more, Swift drifting over this time to partner Yiadom and swing in a ball for Puscas to poke home at the near-post. It was all so simple and yet felt like the first time in years Reading had threatened in such a straightforward manner.
Cardiff weren’t terrible. In the second-half, they played 2-0 football and tested the Royals’ composed new goalkeeper Rafael, who pulled off a marvellous stop from a deflected effort. This high line nonetheless gave the hosts hope of a third goal.
Moments after Puscas had broken the line and spurned his chance for a hat-trick, Swift did the same and buried his one-on-one to round off one of his best afternoons in blue-and-white hoops. Somehow it wasn’t four when Yakou Meite came off the bench to miss a penalty, awarded softly for a trip on Yiadom.
The true importance of this result is yet to come. Reading in recent years have pulled out great performances one week and then been found out by their opponents the next, revealing their lack of plan B and mental strength. Let’s hope this is different. The quality of the players and the manager, combined with the optimism around the club, shapes up for a good, entertaining season. After the last few years, that’s all we can ask for.