To be honest, he didn’t have much to do. Derby struggled to open Reading up, let alone get shots on target, so Rafa’s services weren’t often required. One of his biggest contributions was a long, accurate kick up to Lucas Joao in the build-up to the second goal.
Edit: I originally had Rafael as a 6/10, but forgot his saves from long-range efforts in the second half, so I’ve pushed him up to a 7/10, which is a fairer mark for his overall performance.
Andy Yiadom: 7
Looked sharp and tenacious at right back, although he wasn’t overly tested by the home side. Almost had an assist in the second half when he burst forward down the right and whipped in a very good cross for Joao that was blasted against the bar.
Michael Morrison: 7
Really commanding at the back alongside Moore. Not massively troubled as Derby didn’t have a big man up top to challenge Morrison aerially, but he stayed on top of his brief really well nonetheless.
Liam Moore: 7
Same as Morrison - he wasn’t troubled that much but stayed solid regardless and didn’t give Derby a sniff to get back into the game. That clean sheet will be massive for their confidence - particularly Moore, who looked to have lost his place in the side at the end of last season to McIntyre, but dominant performances like this (with the captain’s armband) are just what he needs.
Omar Richards: 7
A solid, steady game at left back. Looked to overlap Ejaria while the former Liverpool man drifted infield, but he sensibly didn’t push up too much. Protected his flank well and was tidy in possession.
Andy Rinomhota: 7
Really energetic, tenacious performance alongside Josh Laurent in Reading’s double pivot in front of the defence. He won the ball back well and protected the back line nicely, and had a few chances to drive upfield, one of which ended in a turned-down penalty shout from Ejaria.
Josh Laurent: 7
Composed league debut for Laurent who gave Reading’s double pivot some real dynamism. Rino was the more terrier-like of the two, but Laurent appeared the calmer head, keeping the ball nicely without needing to do anything too over the top with it. Contributed to the first goal with a clever run that made room for Joao to nip in and meet the cross.
Michael Olise: 7
Looked pretty bright and gets pushed up to a 7/10 for his dangerous corner that was turned in by Joao at the near post. Could have had an assist earlier on in the game when Joao controlled Olise’s through ball but couldn’t beat the ‘keeper.
That being said, Olise should have had a goal for himself in the second half, receiving a pass from Joao in space, but failing to pull the trigger rather than hitting it on his right foot. Needs to add that killer instinct to his game.
Overall the right-wing spot in the side suited him pretty well. It gave Olise that bit more room to work in and stretch his legs (it’s easy to forget how quick he is), while still letting him drift infield and into deeper positions to get involved.
John Swift: 5
Perhaps a tad harsh, but he didn’t have as much influence on the game as usual, although that was at least in part down to playing in a different role. Swift lined up as a number ten against Derby, playing behind Joao, rather than in the deeper position he was given last season under Mark Bowen.
He also missed some good chances. The first of those two came in the first half when a Joao effort fell to him on the edge of the box, only for Swift to blast over. After the break, Swift managed to get in behind the Derby defence but didn’t pull the trigger so the opportunity went begging.
On the flipside, he was tidy in possession and Reading’s ball retention worsened after he came off.
Ovie Ejaria: 7
Quiet early on but grew into the game as it went on. After having a penalty shout turned down - correctly in my view as it looked pretty soft - he doubled Reading’s lead, getting beyond Joao, collecting the forward’s backheel and slotting home from a tight angle. Great composure.
Went off in the second half after he pulled up. Hopefully nothing too serious as he’d looked bright down the left, linking up centrally to good effect.
Lucas Joao: 8
Certainly Reading star man of the afternoon and made two killer contributions in the first half: a near-post finish from Olise’s corner and a naughty backheel that set up Ejaria for 2-0.
He could have scored earlier from that prior-mentioned Olise pass, when Joao skipped into space on his left foot really nicely, although his effort was saved. Hit the bar in the second half too, striking Yiadom’s cross first time onto the frame of the goal.
Joao’s excellent hold-up play gave Reading real presence up front too, and gave the creative players behind him a focal point to work off. That was evident at the start of the build-up to that Yiadom chance, but also more generally throughout the game, particularly in the closing stages when Reading needed to relieve pressure.
Keep him fit and Reading will do really well this season.
Sone Aluko: 6
Replaced Ejaria and took his teammate’s left-wing spot for the final portion of the game. Retained possession nicely, which was valuable for Reading to keep control of the match, but he didn’t do anything eyecatching in the final third.
Sam Baldock: 5
Replaced Swift to come onto the right flank, and although he was his usual hard-working self, he didn’t really make any major contributions. Had one chance to pick out Aluko through the middle on the counter, which would have given Aluko a clear run on goal, but Baldock couldn’t squeeze the cross past the defender.
Tom Holmes: N/A
Not on the pitch long enough to get a grade, although interestingly he came on as a holding midfielder in what looked like a 4-3-3. Probably just a temporary idea rather than a long-term plan.
Who was your man of the match against Derby County? Vote below or through this link.