Reading FC Match Report: 2015/2016 Season - FA Cup
READING 0 C PALACE 2
C Palace: Y Cabaye (pen 86), F Campbell (90)
An instinctive tug by Jake Cooper on the arm of Yannick Bolasie as he chased a ball into the box five minutes from time ended the Royals F A Cup adventure for another season. Frustratingly I don’t think Bolasie would have reached the ball anyway but he certainly made the most of the contact made by Cooper. Of course we all heard Alan Pardew last weekend publicly denounce players going down easily in the box to win penalties so we can rest assured Bolasie would do no such thing. However referee Dean was in no doubt about awarding the penalty and Cooper’s second yellow card, leaving Cabaye with the opportunity put Palace ahead from the spot. Al Habsi had kept Reading in the game with a string of wonderful saves in the second half and in a final defiant gesture got his left hand to the spot kick even when he was going the wrong way, but sadly for Reading the ball still found the back of the net.
It was an edgy nervous start from Reading, and in the opening minutes they pumped long balls up to Cox who had little chance of winning the ball against Palace’s huge centre backs. Obita, who went on to have a good game defensively, twice gave the ball away carelessly and Hector was also having trouble with his distribution. Eventually they settled in to the game and there was little between the teams in the first forty-five minutes. Souare was looking particularly vulnerable at right back and Robson-Kanu seemed likely to open up the Palace defence. Key moments for Reading centred around Ola John. On thirteen minutes his acceleration took clear him of the full back but twice he frustratingly declined the opportunity to deliver a cross. Finally he lost the ball in going back to beat his man for the third time.
Towards the end of the half, Gunter dug out a superb cross which fell to John at the far post but his effort was deflected for a corner. A couple of minutes later Hennessy missed a deep cross and John found himself with a clear sight of an empty net but from a very tight angle and poked the ball into the side netting. With a little more composure he might have noticed Quinn waiting unmarked in a far better position to finish. Palace had their chances too. Adebyor was thwarted by a combination of McShane’s challenge and an Ai Habsi block and Bolasie drew another good stop from the Reading ‘keeper. Ledley, also under a challenge from McShane, put the ball over from close range when he followed up Bolasie’s shot. Reading’s centre backs were certainly up to the task of containing a powerful Palace attack.
The second half was different story. Reading were under constant pressure. Readings’ cause was not helped by weak refereeing by Mike Dean. He gave some strange decisions notably when Cooper was flattened by a Palace forward as he cleared the ball and he awarded a free kick to Palace. Saha was lucky not to see red when he raised his hands a couple of times after he clashed with Gunter.
Cox had done as well as he could be expected under the circumstances but without outed any support it was a thankless task. He deserved the generous applause he received when he was replaced by Vydra with half an hour left. The dilemma for Brian McDemott was the need to retain a five man midfield to nullify the significant threat of Palace on the counter attack, but in doing so rarely had sufficient numbers in the and around the penalty area to pose a real threat going forward. As the game progressed Reading defended deeper and began to concede free kicks in threatening positions. Al Habsi’s excellent goalkeeping and resolute defending kept Reading in the game. Chances were few and far between but Reading might have taken the lead with twenty minutes left when Robson-Kanu, who had a quieter second half, floated great ball to the far post. An unmarked Ola John waited for the ball to arrive and headed it straight at Hennessey. It was probably Reading’s best chance of the match.
The penalty coming so near the end was the killer blow. Reading were not going to come back from that and Palace’s second goal in stoppage time was irrelevant. Adebyor’s defence splitting pass was met by an unmarked Campbell, but even then he needed two bites at the cherry as Al Habsi parried his initial strike against the post before he smashed the ball into the net as it rolled along the goal line. Al Habsi was still scrambling after it even then. There was never more obvious Man of the Match.
It was good to see the Madejski stadium full again. The crowd certainly helped to make it a special occasion. It was a very entertaining match which Reading never really looked like winning, but Palace certainly had to work hard for their place in the semi-final.
This FA Cup game took place 740 days ago in the 2015/2016 season.