Two decisive minutes changed a match in which the visitors were in total control of the first period of the game. But two red cards and the introduction of Yakou Meite led to another win for Pauno’s men, who are now leaders of the Championship-table.
Right from the beginning Barnsley were attacking high, putting the Royals under direct pressure. Gerhard Struber´s team had clearly the better start with more possession and were in control of the game. As consequence, the first chance fell also to the visitors. A cross from Ritzmaier found Frieser, whose header forced Rafael to make a great save (seventh minute).
Reading tried hard, but couldn’t find a solution against an aggressive Barnsley side that tried to win every ball back early in midfield. So, it was again the team from South Yorkshire who had the next opportunities. Thomas with a first-time shot from the edge of the box after 17 minutes and Andersen with a header right before the half-hour-mark went both close.
The first decisive moment of the match came then after 41 minutes: a Barnsley corner ended up in a clear shot from inside the box which Rinomhota could block with a vital tackle preventing the home side from getting 0-1 behind. Only seconds later, Swift’s brilliant long ball sent Joao through on goal. The Tykes’ Polish defender Helik tugged back the big Reading striker. Clearly a card! Referee Tim Robinson judged it even as a red one. A hard, but also justifiable decision.
Moments later it was half time. The Royals didn’t test the visitors at all. No shots on goal. It was all Barnsley.
The effect of Helik’s red card was clearly seen from the beginning of the second half. Reading had most of the possession then, but they still couldn’t find a way through the hard-battling Barnsley-defence. Time was ticking away and Veljko Paunovic made his first substitution. On came Yakou Meite for Josh Laurent, who had a rather quiet game. Olise took over his deeper midfield position alongside Rinomhota. Meite played on the right wing.
And seven minutes later it was Meite himself who had the first chance for the Royals. After a left-wing cross from Swift, his header forced Barnsley keeper Walton to make a decent save.
The following corner introduced the second decisive minute of the match: the Tykes’ defence couldn’t clear Olise’s in-swinging ball, which fell to captain Liam Moore. His shot from inside the box was blocked on the line and substitute Meite was quickest to react, to head home Reading’s 1-0 lead.
Again, only seconds later Andersen handled the ball deep in midfield. As he was already booked there was only one decision: the Tykes had their second player sent off. From one minute to the next, Pauno’s men were now leading and had two players more on the pitch than their opponents.
And it took the Royals only eight minutes more to decide the match. A further corner kick was cleared only outside the box where Olise smashed a volley in with a beautiful left-footed shot. A great goal from the 18 year-old-and game over!
From that moment on the visitors’ resistance was broken. Pauno made some changes, bringing on Puscas for Joao and Aluko for Swift, with Ejaria moving into a more central position and the Nigerian playing at left wing.
In the last five minutes, the Royals could have scored even a third. First Puscas sent a driving shot directly into the arms of Walton. Seconds later Aluko made a dangerous run down the left, but his cross didn’t find a player in blue and white. The last chance came in the second minute of stoppage time when Ejaria ended a nice dribble with a low left-footed shot that Walton could save for Reading’s sixth corner.
Soon afterwards it was full time and another three points for Pauno’s men. A perfect start to the league season as the Royals finish the second round as leaders. Still, it was a performance difficult to rate. Barnsley were in full control until the first sending off. It took the home side 65 minutes until the first shot went on target. On the other hand, I’m sure that Struber’s men will give many other teams in this league a hard time when they play away from home. The Royals tried hard to battle back and looked maybe more clinical in the end.
Olise and Richards had both a good game. Araruna did OK as a right back. Joao worked hard as lone striker and “provoked” Barnsley’s first red card. Due to his immediate impact I’d give the man of the match maybe to Meite. His goal for 1-0 was decisive. Overall a definitely improvable performance, but who cares when you’re top of the league? Rafael still hasn’t conceded a goal so far. And even without performing on their highest level, the team seems to have enough quality to score goals and get a clean sheet. Looking quite promising!