I don’t think many of us, going to bed on Friday night, could’ve dreamed of a start to the new season better to the one we actually got. We were absolutely excellent against the Rams on Saturday, and deservedly took all three points back down to Berkshire.
John Swift, Michael Olise and the ever-magical Ovie Ejaria ran Derby ragged in midfield with the solid protection of Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent behind them. As for the man up top, Lucas Joao was imperious yet again - bagging himself yet another goal, and also a delightful assist for Ejaria’s goal on the stroke of half time.
The back four were also incredibly impressive, marshalled by Michael Morrison and reinstated skipper Liam Moore. The latter of those two spoke earlier in the week about Paunovic being a manager who wants x, y and z from each player and if they do those jobs, then the team has a good chance of a result. That theory was in full flow on Saturday, with the whole team to a man doing their jobs perfectly, which was rewarded with the perfect result.
The fans were certainly left happy after watching their team get off to a winning start at Pride Park. Here's how they reacted to some of the key talking points...
Lucas Joao (again)
I think it’s fair to say that Joao is a man in form at the moment. First the ‘perfect’ hat-trick against Colchester in the Carabao Cup last weekend, and now a goal and assist in the Championship curtain-raiser against the Rams.
There are few better target men at this level when Joao is on form, and he's started this season in ferocious form. If we can keep him fit, which as we all know is a huge if, he will be a serious player for us this season and he will score goals.
He was a key part of all of our winning teams last season, and that is no coincidence. His importance to this team is huge, and the fans certainly know that...
Please stay fit Lucas Joao. Today’s line up was spot on. #ReadingFC— Samuel Kailus (@SKailus) September 12, 2020
Back to back opening day goals for Lucas João. Glad this time it was for us and not against us. #readingfc— Dan (@DanHindmarsh16) September 12, 2020
If Lucas Joao had hamstrings not made out of glass, he would have 3 golden boots, 2 Ballon D'ors, 1 Oscar, 1 Nobel prize, 2 Grammys and a Pulitzer prize by now. #readingfc— Imran Escőbar (@razor5edge) September 12, 2020
That second goal
What a goal this was. The dummy and pass from Rafael, the hold-up play and cheeky back heel from Joao and then the finish from Ejaria - delicious.
Joao and Ejaria were the stars of the show, and I’m sure the whole Reading fanbase will join me in saying that is sure is great to see Ovie back in a Reading shirt - and this time for good.
It’s early days for Paunovic, but if he can get the team scoring goals like this on a regular basis, then it won’t take long before the Loyal Royals truly take him to their heart. Ejaria’s goal left some fans drooling on social media after the game...
OVIE EJARIA WITH THE SECOND!!!!!!! Brilliant from Joao too!! 2-0 UP ⚪️ #readingfc— Luke (@Luke1871_) September 12, 2020
That assist pic.twitter.com/PVfIUKDcJx— Reading FC Blue And White Wall (@bluewhitewall) September 12, 2020
Goooooooaaaaaaalllllll !!! Ejaria with a wonderfully worked goal to make it 2-0 to #readingfc— Andy (@Brownie1871) September 12, 2020
As I said previously, with all the uncertainty and madness that's surrounded the club - yet again - during pre season, I don't think any Reading fan could’ve pictured a better start to the campaign than the one Paunovic’s men delivered.
The manager will be more than pleased, as he’s in the position where if he’d have lost that game, he would’ve already been under serious pressure - so this win will be a huge weight lifted off his shoulders too, and I for one am delighted for him. It’s not his fault he ended up as our manager in the circumstances he did.
It’s a fantastic start, and the fans will be hoping that we can continue this vein of form over the coming weeks...
As SDR said the other day #readingfc beating Colchester was expected but win at Derby is what you call a good performance. Well done lads and a great start for Paunovic.— Sir Dodger Royal (@SirDodgerRoyal) September 12, 2020
Brilliant from top to bottom today. Great win and should've been even more! #readingfc— Ben (@BenParsons89) September 12, 2020
Great start to the season for #readingfc and Paunović. A very good team performance: Clean sheet, attacking threat, and an away win. João definitely the star of the show, he was phenomenal, pretty unplayable in that mood today & if he stays fit #readingfc ⚽ ⚪— Tom Maynard (@ttmaynard) September 12, 2020
Not to get ahead of myself but i genuinly think we are going to win the Champions league next season.#readingfc— Mac (@Mac94339932) September 12, 2020
What a start, clean sheet, comfortable win, 3 points! Rino and Laurent make us harder to cut open. Joao dominated their defenders, also pressed high. Sat back and killed the game off at the right time. Should of scored more but very optimistic! #ReadingFC— Alex Sheppard (@Alex_Shep_Urzz) September 12, 2020
Great win. We looked in control for 90 minutes which was pleasing to see. Also that starting 11 is just so well balanced now. #readingfc— Steven Kemp (@kempy26783) September 12, 2020
What an exciting start to the new season!! Great win away and so much quality all over the park. Can't ask for much more. It's only one game but .. can you feel it? @ReadingFC #readingfc pic.twitter.com/mZBAC1VHF0— Richard Crewdson (@crewy100) September 12, 2020
It’s an absolutely superb start - but that’s all it is. Paunovic will know that, and he’ll know that there's a long season ahead, but he couldn’t have asked for a better start than this one.
It’s been another absolutely crazy pre-season for the club, but now we can fully focus on getting some reinforcements in and actually playing football, and hopefully winning more football matches.