Couldn’t do much about either of the goals: a close-range effort from Fletcher and a thunderous hit from the edge of the area by Bola. Wasn’t overly tested apart from the goals though, making a few routine saves that were put pretty much straight at him.
Andy Yiadom: 5
Had little room to work in down the right, and ultimately had a quiet afternoon in the final third - the crucial area of the game for an attacking right back like him in this kind of match. Went close in the second half when he did well to keep the ball on the pitch and play a one-two with Esteves, but poked his shot past the far post with his right foot rather than having a go with his left.
Michael Morrison: 6
This wasn’t really a game for Morrison. Despite the evidence from Tuesday, he’s not a ball-playing centre half, meaning that although he had plenty of possession against Boro, he wasn’t the right player to do something with it and often was too safe with the ball at his feet. More adventure required.
He did have some good moments from open play in the second half though. On one occasion, his long-range ping picked out Yiadom on the right in the build-up to his chance, and on another, he found space to drive into from a deeper position and let fly from the edge of the box, but put his shot too near the ‘keeper. I’d have liked to see him be ambitious with the ball like that more often.
Defensively, he looked a little exposed on the counter at times, but none of those moments were exploited by the visitors.
Tom McIntyre: 6
Lost Fletcher for the first goal, allowing the Boro striker to nip in for an easy finish. But he responded really well to that mistake, cutting out danger after a slack Semedo pass in the first half and looking very assured at the back in the second half to ward off a number of dangerous moments from the away side.
Offensively, he put a near-post header wide from Olise’s corner in the first half (he needed to flick the ball across him), and flicked a long kick from Rafa onwards into a dangerous area, only for noone to be gambling on it. In open play he could have been more aggressive with driving upfield to cause Boro problems in the second half.
Omar Richards: 5
A poor 45 minutes from Richards, who was subbed off at half time. Didn’t have much of an impact going forwards down the left, and was booked for a poorly timed challenge that prompted Pauno to replace him with Lewis Gibson.
Josh Laurent: 6
One of Reading’s stronger performers on the day for me. Looked imposing in midfield and showed just how important his dynamism is to the side, driving upfield to put Reading on the front foot a number of times. Played in Ejaria for a shot that went just past the post in the first half, and had a nice driving run into the Boro box in the second, only to run out of room.
Andy Rinomhota: 5
Seemed to swap the number 10 role with Semedo in the first half, but settled into a deeper role in the second. Didn’t offer that much in possession throughout the game though; his energy is great, but in matches like this when the opposition is there to be broken down, Rino lacks the creativity.
Went close in the first half when he put a first-time shot just past the far post from Olise’s pass. Should have done better with the opportunity and at least worked the ‘keeper.
Michael Olise: 5
Looked bright earlier on in the first half, feeding Rino for a shot from the edge of the area; the build-up was particularly good as he glided in from the right flank before laying the ball off just right for the onrushing midfielder. Also created some half chances for Joao and McIntyre from corners, although neither player could get convincing efforts at goal from them.
But he lost concentration at the back for the second goal, letting Bola free on the edge of the box before the Boro man rocketed the ball into the net. Olise faded as the first half went on and, although he was restored to his favoured central position after the break, he struggled to impose himself on a well-drilled Boro side that left little space for him to work in. On the occasion he did manage to get in behind from an Ejaria through ball, he was offside.
Alfa Semedo: 5
I was looking forward to seeing Semedo get another chance as a deep-lying midfielder, ideally with Olise in front of him, but Pauno instead opted to push him higher up (although there was rotation with Rinomhota). As I’ve said an annoying amount of times in Player Ratings before, Semedo didn’t look comfortable as a number 10. On the one occasion he did create something, charging down the left early on into space, his cross was poor and the opportunity was blown.
The key moment of his afternoon though came for the first goal, when he was beaten far too easily at the back post for the header that set up the opener. Whatever position he’s being played in, he needs to keep his concentration better. Hooked at half time for Esteves.
Ovie Ejaria: 5
Another of those games when Ejaria seemed to be more of a passenger than an active participant. He went close in the first half from the edge of the box when he fired just wide of the far post, but otherwise offered little. Sloppy in possession at times and, when he was robbed just before the break, Boro gained a counter that probably should have been converted for 3-0.
Ejaria has the talent to be one of the best attacking players in the Championship, but he needs to learn how to take games by the scruff of the neck rather than hoping something falls his way. In his defence, a quiet, ineffective performance like this may be at least in part due to how much football he’s playing; Laurent benefitted from a complete rest in midweek and the same would probably be true of Ejaria.
Lucas Joao: 5
Teams seem to be increasingly working out how to keep Joao quiet - today was another game in which Reading’s lone striker lacked space and service, so had a minimal impact on the game. The closest he came was a header from a corner in the first half that he couldn’t keep down. He had scraps to work with, and he badly missed support from the injured pair of John Swift (to play passes into him) and Yakou Meite (to push up as effectively another centre forward).
Tomas Esteves: 5
I’d have liked to see Esteves start on the right like on Tuesday to continue the partnership with Yiadom, but by the point the youngster was introduced (with Reading 2-0 down at half time), the state of the game wasn’t right for him. Unlike in midweek, space was in short supply, so getting into the game was always going to be difficult. His inexperience (particularly as a right winger) showed.
Lewis Gibson: 5
Brought on for Richards who was on a yellow card, Gibson had a quiet afternoon and left back and didn’t provide anything noteworthy going forwards. Reading could have used a quicker, more creative left back than Gibson in the circumstances.
George Puscas: 5
Had little service after being introduced in the 78th minute, by which point most of Reading’s momentum had gone. Still, good to see him picking up more match practice after long-term injury.
Sone Aluko: N/A
Probably had more attacking impact than the other subs, despite only coming on in the 86th minute. Put in a good free kick from the left that Morrison headed off target, and a late mazy run down the left took him into the box and led to penalty shouts (waved away) when he went down. Probably should have come on earlier, albeit in hindsight.
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