Fantastic start! Fantastic win! Fantastic team effort! And who had expected that, after a quite turbulent and eventful pre-season?
At Derby’s Pride Park Stadium, the Royals started brightly, directly taking control with some nice one-touch-football and good passing movements. The offensive line with lone striker Lucas Joao and Ovie Ejaria, John Swift and Michael Olise behind him was pressing high, putting the Rams defence under pressure. Derby themselves seemed a bit surprised and had difficulties to find their way into the match. It took them until the 12th minute to start a first attack, which led also to the first corner. But no danger for the goal of Rafael.
The first big chance of the match came after 20 minutes. Ejaria won the ball with a great tackle inside Derby’s half, Olise reacted quickly and passed it further to Joao who made space in the area with a good movement. His left-footed shot was parried by Rams keeper Marshall. Swifty’s rebound went high over the bar. On the other side, Derby had a half chance five minutes later with a long-range effort from Whittaker that went over the bar.
Apart from that, it was all Reading. Rino and Laurent built a strong partnership in defensive midfield, working very well together and leaving the opponent no space in the centre. Whenever the Royals were in possession, Yiadom on the right and Richards on the left pushed forward to support Ejaria, Olise and co.
Deep into the first half, Reading had another good attack down the left through Joao and Richards that led to the first corner for the Royals. Olise’s ball from the right found Lucas Joao unmarked on the near post, who cooly finished with his right for Reading’s first league goal of the season. An absolutely deserved lead.
Right before the break, Pauno’s men were even 2-0 up, and what a brilliant goal that was! A beautiful backheel from Joao inside the box led to the overlapping Ejaria to his left who then slotted the ball nicely in with his left foot. No chance for the Derby keeper and 2-0 for the Royals at half time. New boss Veljko Paunovic must have been very pleased with the first 45 minutes under his reign.
The second half was pretty much the same. Reading never seemed in big trouble and had the game under control. The only real danger from the home side came after 50 minutes when again Whittaker tried his best from distance, but Rafael saved the ball on his second attempt. After that, it was again all Pauno’s men. If you could criticise something then it was the lack of taking one of the great opportunities to close the game with a third goal.
In the 55th minute it was Swifty who broke clear on goal, but the Derby defence was quick to get back, preventing him from a shot. Two minutes later another great move down the right from Yiadom, whose cross found Joao in the middle. The big Portuguese was unlucky as his first-time shot hit the crossbar. And after the hour mark, it was again Joao who terrified the Rams’ defence with a powerful run through the middle. His pass found the free Olise who should have hit the ball directly but got it stuck in his feet.
The rest of the second half went on quite unspectacularly. After 68 minutes Aluko came on for the injured Ejaria (let’s hope it’s nothing serious). 10 minutes afterwards, John Swift left the field. On came Baldock who played at right wing, with Olise moving into a more central role. Josh Laurent’s cramps in the 82nd minute were also a clear sign of all the hard work he and his teammates had put into this match. A few minutes before the final whistle, Tom Homes could celebrate his second first-team appearance, coming on for Olise. For the final seconds the number 29 played in a deeper midfield position, right in front of the back four.
Shortly after, it was full time. From beginning to end a very convincing performance from the Royals and a great start for Veljko Paunovic. A terrific first 90 minutes that gives hope for more in the upcoming month.