A brilliant 45 minutes and a superb overall performance saw the Royals earn three important points against fellow promotion contenders Bournemouth. Reading beat the Cherries absolutely convincingly by three goals to goals. Josh Laurent, Tom McIntyre and Lucas Joao put the Royals in front, and when Pauno’s men had to battle hard to prevent the visitors from a comeback, they did just that. A great statement against an opponent we lost to 4-2 only two months ago.
Veljko Paunovic made only one change to the week before. Michael Olise replaced Sone Aluko on the right-wing. On the bench, the Royals boss could count on the return of Yakou Meite and Andy Yiadom who had been out for quite some time with injuries. For the Cherries, academy graduate Jack Stacey started as right back.
Anticipation was high as the fifth and sixth of the Championship met under the floodlights at the Madejski. The importance of this game was also soon reflected on the field. It was a quiet start, both teams were trying to avoid any early mistakes. The first effort came after five minutes from the visitors. Arnaut Dajuma’s long-range shot was saved comfortably by keeper Rafael.
Apart from that, it was a tight midfield battle without any real danger in both boxes. Reading tried to move the ball around quickly to find some space on the wings. Defensively, skipper Michael Morrison led again by example in a very solid performance at the back.
The first real chance for the Royals came after the 20th minute. A misunderstanding between Bournemouth keeper Asmir Begovic and Lewis Cook gave Lucas Joao the possibility to break into the left-hand side of the area. His back pass found John Swift whose shot from the edge was blocked in the last moment.
With every minute Pauno’s men were taking over more and more. Ejaria had a cross from inside the box cleared. And from the upcoming corner it was 1-0 to the Royals! After two aerial challenges the ball fell to Tom McIntyre who fired in a strong left-footed volley that was blocked by Mepham. But midfield maestro Josh Laurent was quickest to react to the loose ball to stab it home from close range.
And Reading kept going. After half an hour, Andy Rinomhota burst forward and was stopped only by a sliding tackle from Diego Rico on the edge of the area. Yellow for the Spaniard and a free kick for the home side in a very dangerous position. Olise stepped up and delivered a low ball which Cherries keeper Begovic could only parry straight at McIntyre. The Royals’ number five made no mistake to score Reading’s second with his left.
It was all Reading now. The Royals were totally dominating. Tom Holmes went close with a header while Olise had another chance with a strong left-footed foot from outside the box. Still, the men in blue and white didn’t have enough yet. Three minutes before the break, Swift and Ejaria played a great one-two in midfield with the latter sending Joao clear on goal with a perfectly timed pass. The big Portuguese controlled the ball inside the area, rolled it past defender Cook and calmly finished it past Begovic. A classical Lucas Joao goal! Reading 3, Bournemouth 0.
Soon after it was half time. What a performance! A magnificent 45 minutes from the Royals. A very concentrated team display that resulted in an absolutely deserved 3-0 lead.
At the beginning of the second half, the visitors made three substitutions. Brooks, Smith and Wilshere came all in. Even though Bournemouth were having now more possession, the first opportunity was for the Royals. In the 54th minute, Ejaria dribbled into the box and played a smart back pass to Swift. But his shot went a bit too high over the bar.
It took the Cherries until the hour mark to create their first big opportunity after the break. An inswinging corner reached Chris Mepham in the middle. His shot from short distance was charged down with a fantastic goal-line block from Tom Holmes. Two minutes later, another chance for the visitors. Brooks sent in a precise cross from the right that found Billing in the centre, and his header was tipped wide by Rafael. Pauno’s men had to battle now hard to regain some possession.
In the 71st minute Alfa Semedo was substituted on for John Swift after a great performance from the Reading playmaker. Right afterwards, Joao had his left-footed shot parried away following a rapid counter-attack. Reading were again better in the game now as they managed to take the visitors’ pressure off. 77 minutes were played when Sone Aluko replaced the lively Ovie Ejaria.
But just when it seemed the Royals had overcome the short spell of danger and done enough to finish the game off, Bournemouth scored five minutes before the end from a direct free-kick. Stanislas’ ball went through the holey Reading wall and left Rafael no chance.
Veljko Paunovic tried his best to slow the game down with further substitutions. Off went Tom Holmes, Michael Olise and Lucas Joao, all after fine performances, and on came Andy Yiadom, Tomas Esteves and Yakou Meite. Both Esteves and Meite were quick to introduce themselves with some good goal opportunities.
Bournemouth kept trying hard to score a second, but after six long minutes of stoppage time referee James Linington blew the final whistle. Reading beat Bournemouth 3-1! What a statement in such a crucial game! A totally convincing victory after maybe the best performance of the season so far. Before Saturday’s matches, Reading are now fourth with 47 points, just like Swansea (second) and Watford (third) and an eight-point gap over 7th.
Happy weekend to everyone!