Ninth round of the Championship… and it was time for Reading’s first defeat. After a surprise lead for the home side, Pauno’s men struggled to find a way into the match. Goals from Joao and substitution Puscas were not enough to prevent the Royals from driving back home without a point.
Reading started in a 4-2-3-1 system, with the offensive three Aluko, Semedo and Olise rotating at times. The visitors were directly in control, having most of the possession and moving the ball around with a lot of confidence.
The first danger for Coventry’s defence came after just two minutes when Aluko, who had a very lively start, nearly got a touch on Dabo’s badly timed back pass. Shortly afterwards a first good attack over the left wing: Richards sent the ball out to Olise who found Semedo just outside the box, but the left-footed shot from Reading’s number 30 went clearly too high.
In the 21st minute, the Royals should have taken the lead. Dabo’s too-heavy back pass, which Rose couldn’t control, sent Lucas Joao through alone on goal. Unfortunately, his first touch wasn’t good enough, so keeper Marosi could narrow the angle and save his shot from a short distance. A great chance the Portuguese striker usually doesn’t miss.
Like it happens often in football when you don’t take your opportunities, Coventry scored with their first real dangerous attack. Morrison didn’t get a strong enough touch on a cross from the left, Godden passed the ball back to Hamer, who slotted it home through Moore’s legs into the bottom corner. No chance for Rafael, and the first time Reading were behind this season. It was interesting to see the team’s reaction.
And it’s fair to say that the goal had some impact. The Royals found it difficult to regain control and possession from the first 20 minutes - especially the offensive play was a bit scrappy. Apart from two appeals for handball (but not enough for a penalty), the first 45 minutes ended without any further action in the goal area.
No changes at the beginning of the second half, with both teams having a quiet start. Laurent tried his luck with a shot from long distance which Marosi easily gathered. A miscontrolled pass from Olise inside Reading’s half gave Godden the chance to score a second - fortunately, the Sky Blues’ captain blasted the opportunity high over the bar (52nd minute).
On a rain-soaked pitch at Birmingham’s St Andrew’s (still Coventry’s home ground this season) Reading had difficulties building up their passing football. But just when you thought only some substitution might revitalise the Royals’ search for a goal, it was time for big Lucas Joao to provide the equalizer. A nice short pass from Laurent found Reading’s top scorer who drove to the centre and fired the ball in from nearly 25 yards. A brilliant finish!
The match was now open with both sides looking for the second goal. The league leaders from Berkshire tried to regain possession. Still, the next big opportunity was for the home side. After a free-kick, the Royals couldn’t clear the ball out of the area. A cross from the right then found Biamou around six yards in front of the goal, and his right-footed shot hit the post.
A lucky moment for Pauno’s men, but it didn’t last long. The upcoming corner led finally to a 2-1 lead for Coventry. Rafael could only punch away a difficult long-range shot to the side. Godden was quickest to react and tapped the ball in from a short distance.
And if that wasn’t enough, Liam Moore limped off the field with what seemed to be muscular problems. Pauno made his first substitutions: on came Puscas and McIntyre for Olise and the injured Moore. A second striker should bring more offensive power. Unfortunately, the fourth goal of the match fell again on the other side. It was an unusual mistake by keeper Rafael; the Brazilian tried to parry a long-range shot from McCallum with his fists, but couldn’t really get a touch on the wet ball. 3-1, 85th minute.
On a positive note, the Royals still pushed forward and tried everything to avoid defeat with what would have been a miracle. Right before the beginning of the stoppage time, Joao had another chance, trying to chip the ball over Marosi, but his touch was too soft. Two minutes later George Puscas gave the Royals further hope. Omar Richards fired the ball into the box where Joao’s touch sent Puscas free on goal. The Romanian didn’t make a mistake and slotted the ball home with his right.
But it was too late! Even though Reading tried hard to find another opportunity, minutes later referee Webb blew the final whistle. After being behind for the first time the Royals conceded also their first defeat of the season. Further bad news is the injury of captain Liam Moore (let’s hope it’s nothing serious). Overall a poor night for the Royals.
Nevertheless, no need for negativity. 22 points out of nine matches is still much more than everyone would have expected some weeks ago. It was clear that we won’t stay unbeaten the whole season. It will be decisive now to see how the team handles this situation of a first knockdown. If we are real contenders for promotion or the play-off spots, today’s game shouldn’t affect us too much. Next chance to do better is already on Wednesday. Come you URZ!