Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship


Reading: M Olise (89)
QPR: --

Michael Olise celebrated his nineteenth birthday in style coming off the bench to hit a stunning winning goal in the eighty-ninth minute at The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium. Olise will grab the headlines, but the win was built on the foundations of a magnificent team performance which had everything that had been missing in the dismal showing at home against Birmingham earlier in the week. Forced to make changes due to injuries to Joao and Meite, Veljko Paunovic was forced to make positional and tactical changes and came up with a winning formula. However, the biggest change was in the attitude of the players. Reading defended with determination, discipline and courage. The passing and movement was sharp and decision-making was much improved, typified by Ejaria making the right choice about when to release the ball early and when to take players on. Once again the Royals faced a team of limited creativity who tended to adopt crude physical tactics to unsettle their opponents, but on this occasion they remained unruffled and took the game to Rangers. It was a hard fought and thoroughly deserved victory.

Rangers are struggling this season but with so many players injured Paunovic had very few options in attack. Baldock was called in for a rare appearance in the starting eleven and Samedo called upon to play in a more advanced midfield position to provide a target for long balls from the back. The re-shuffled line up started well and restricted Rangers to one shot on target from Chair after ten minutes in the first half. After the slack defender against Birmingham Reading were working much harder to close players down around their own penalty area. Morrison headed just wide from a corner and a superb pass inside the full back allowed Ejaria to slide in a very good cross which the scampering Baldock could not quite reach. Things were not made any easier when Richards pulled up lame with what looks like another long term injury. He was replaced by Gibson at full back who came on and he didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon. He may not offer as much going forward as Richards, but his ability in the air, positional sense and range of passing if anything, strengthened the defence. Rangers began to mount pressure on the Reading defence as half time approached but everyone stuck to their task.

Reading came out for the second half with no intention of sitting back and enjoyed a good spell in the opening ten minutes. Reading were stringing passes together and swarming around the ball to win back possession when moves broke down. Baldock did his best against the odds to occupy the centre backs as Reading’s midfield covered a staggering amount of ground. Laurent made two incredible runs from inside his own half leaving several Rangers players trailing in his wake, taking pressure off the defence and putting Reading on the offensive. Rinomohta as always, was solid defensively and had opponents back pedalling and committing fouls by taking them on in the Rangers half of the pitch. Ejaria’s work rate was also impressive as was Aluko’s.

After sixty-five minutes Paunovic sensibly made changes. On came Olise and Holmes for Aluko and Esteves, and later McIntyre for Baldock. It is debateable whether the changes were intended to try to win the game or hold on for a point, but there was no lack of intensity about the Reading’s approach to the task. Chair almost put Rangers ahead in the seventy-seventh minute but his shot came back off the inside of the post. It was a lucky escape for Reading but not undeserved. Olise understandably took a couple of minutes to settle in but looked typically comfortable on the ball. Carroll was the first player to receive a yellow card for pulling him back as he drifted past him. Only the referee will know why more yellow cards had not been shown to other Rangers players. The game was heading towards a draw but it was the Rangers fans who were beginning to feel uneasy. In the last minute of the ninety McIntyre found Olise with a clever back heel just outside the box. Olise had a quick look at the target then curled an exquisite strike inside the far post. It was a moment of class which worthy of winning any match.

The five minutes of stoppage time revealed Rangers lack of creativity as they pumped the ball forward whenever they could, but with Holmes, Moore, Morrison, McIntyre and Gibson on the pitch (five centre backs by trade!) Reading were perfectly set up to deal with that strategy. It was an important win, not just for the three points which keep the Royals firmly in the top six, but also for the quality of performance in boosting confidence and morale after the disappointment of Wednesday’s defeat. If there were questions to be answered about heart, character, and commitment in the squad, they were answered this afternoon.

This Championship game took place 412 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.