An enjoyable afternoon for the Royals who beat a weak Sheffield Wednesday side by three goals to 0. The key moment came right before the half-hour mark when Owls defender Börner was sent off and Michael Olise converted the resulting penalty for the lead.
Two wins in a row without conceding a goal and now relegation-troubled Sheffield Wednesday were visiting the Madejski. The raw statistics indicated an easy home win. But how often these “simple” games have proved to be exactly the contrary…
In addition to that, the increasing injury list must have been given Veljko Paunovic some further selection headaches. Apart from Michael Morrison, Lewis Gibson, Andy Rinomhota, John Swift, Felipe Araruna and Yakou Meite, surprisingly Ovie Ejaria was now out too. To all that, Pauno needed to add himself to the list with a shoulder injury he had picked up at the training ground this week. At least he could make it to the dugout…
In comparison to the Blackburn win on Tuesday night, Tom McIntyre came in at central midfield, taking over Alfa Semedo’s deeper spot with the Portuguese moving more to the right, and Tom Holmes substituted in for Morro at the heart of the defence, playing alongside captain Liam Moore. Overall, it looked like a 4-4-2 system with a diamond midfield.
After a quiet start the first chance came in the 12th minute for the home side. A good inswinging ball from Richards found Semedo inside the box. His shot was blocked by a Wednesday defender. There were handball appeals, but referee James Linington waved play on. Three minutes later the Owls created some danger on the other side. Urhoghide sent in a cross from the right, but Holmes was quick to react and clear the ball. From the upcoming corner Lees hit the bar with a header. The only clear goal opportunity the visitors had during the whole 90 minutes.
The Royals kept on pressing high without threatening Sheffield Wednesday too much though. Midway through the first half Yiadom found some space on the right and sent a pass to Joao who let the ball through to Puscas. The shot from the Romanian striker went central and straight into the arms of keeper Wildsmith. Even though Pauno’s men had more possession it was still an open game.
In the 29th minute came the key moment of the match: the lively George Puscas sprinted onto a mistimed back pass from the Wednesday defence. He went through on goal and could only be stopped by a foul from Julian Börner inside the area. Penalty and red card for the German. After the last misses from Lucas Joao, Michael Olise stepped up and coolly finished to give the Royals the lead. Like in the two last matches the blue and white managed to score the important first goal just before the half-hour mark.
Reading were now in full control. Puscas should have done better in the 35th minute - a long ball from McIntyre found the former Inter Milan man who couldn’t get enough power behind his header. Shortly after Laurent won the ball on the left and passed it (again) to Puscas. His flick-on sent Olise clear, but the number seven’s right-foot shot went a bit too high. Minutes later it was half-time. 1-0 to the Royals.
With the visitors reduced to 10 men the home side needed to keep pressuring and search for the second, and they did exactly that. Only 25 seconds were played when Laurent tested keeper Wildsmith with a finish right from the edge of the box. Moments later Joao flicked the ball onto the woodwork after a corner from Olise. The 2-0 seemed only a question of time. Richards and Olise, both with dangerous crosses, as well as Tom Holmes with a good left-foot shot from inside the box, went all close.
In the 65th minute it was finally game over thanks to a brilliant team goal. Tom McIntyre played a short pass to Olise. The young midfield maestro moved forward and found Yiadom on the right. The number 17, a constant threat on his side, pulled the ball perfectly back to Lucas Joao, and the Royals’ leading scorer made no mistake to finish with his 18th league goal of the season.
Directly afterwards the big Portuguese went off and was substituted for Sone Aluko. From that moment on the tempo slowed a bit down. Reading knew they had done enough to win the game. Veljko Paunovic used the confident lead to make some further changes, bringing on Sam Baldock and Dejan Tetek for George Puscas and Michael Olise, both after some very good performances.
With two minutes to go Reading made it three. Aluko drove to the byline with a powerful run on the left, and his inswinging cross went past everyone in the middle and dropped for Yiadom on the right side of the box. The 29 year-old controlled the ball and slammed it past the Owls keeper. His first of the season.
For the last seconds Tomas Esteves and young Femi Azeez, who celebrated his debut, came on for Laurent and Yiadom. Soon after it was full time. A comfortable and deserved 3-0 win for the Royals. Like against Rotherham and Blackburn it was a very strong team performance, with George Puscas, Michael Olise and Andy Yiadom standing out a bit. Special mention also for the two Toms, Holmes and McIntyre, who fitted in very well for key players like Michael Morrison and Andy Rinomhota.
After the shock loss at Wycombe, Pauno’s men have managed to fight back with three wins on the bounce, three straight clean sheets and today three points by scoring three goals. Clearly all good things come in threes…
The Royals stay fifth with 60 points, with a four-point cushion to seventh and six points behind second (with Swansea City third and having two games in hand). How fast things can change within 11 days…