Report: Reading 1 Blues 2

The victory takes Blues onto 22 points.


Ten-man Blues married quality and resilience to beat Reading 2-1 in the Sky Bet Championship.

Facing one of the division’s pacesetters, Aitor Karanka’s side led through two Jon Toral goals at the break, before Yakou Meite halved the lead in the 61st minute.

And it appeared the three points would be slipping away when the referee awarded a penalty to the Royals and sent Harlee Dean off in the process.

However, Neil Etheridge ensured it was Blues fans at home and not the Reading supporters inside the Madejski Stadium who were celebrating when he saved Lucas Joao’s spot kick.

The victory takes Blues onto 22 points ahead of the visit of Watford this Saturday.

There was initially just one change to the side which won at Bristol City with Kristian Pedersen returning at left-back for George Friend. That was until Blues were forced into an additional switch when Jeremie Bela picked up an injury in the warm up. The result was Jonathan Leko taking his place from the start and Adam Clayton being added to the bench.

This, fortunately, did not disrupt our early flow and an initial sign of Blues’ intentions came when Ivan Sanchez found the overlapping Maxime Colin, only for the Royals defence to block the cross. The Spanish winger was at it again for the second time in the opening ten minutes as he glided past two opponents and delivered marginally beyond Leko.

Blues then made their move through the heart of Reading as they controlled the opening stages. With play dictated by Maikel Kieftenbeld, the ball eventually found its way to Ivan Sunjic and his pass found Scott Hogan who was adjudged offside as he took aim. Moments later the frontman did have the ball in the net, but again he was denied by the linesman’s flag.  

After 15 minutes the hosts made their first attacking efforts, although Neil Etheridge was not threatened by Michael Morrison’s left-footed shot in what had been a fine start against a team who have impressed in the Sky Bet Championship.

The chance was a sign of the hosts settling into the game and they started to have a spell of possession in our half.

It was, therefore, a real sign of Blues’ character that they took the lead on the back of this through Toral. In a move that developed down the left-hand side, Leko allowed the ball to find the forward-thinking Pedersen who surged up field. He then showed awareness to sweep the ball square where Toral calmy set himself and fired home off the inside of the post.

Not content with one, Hogan forced Rafael into a save and from the resulting corner Leko saw an effort cleared off the line, before Blues did double their lead through the man of the hour.

Showcasing speed of thought and skill, Toral darted in from the right and decided to ignore his teammates in the centre; a decision that was vindicated when his curling effort nestled in the far corner to silence the home crowd.

So impressive had been Blues opening 45 minutes that the 2,000 spectators, clearly frustrated by their team, booed on the sound of the half-time whistle.

Half-time: Reading 0 Blues 2

It was never going to be easy for Blues to replicate the attacking dominance of the first half, but you could not fault their commitment to the cause. Karanka’s men continued to display the commitment and intensity that is required away from home, seeing off a series of Royals’ corners minutes after the interval.

The lack of progress forced the hosts into a duo of changes, and moments after the second of these they halved the arrears. Having found space on the right, Andy Rinomhota’s cross deflected kindly into the path of Meite who could not miss from close range.

Boosted by their response, Reading were handed a further advantage when they were awarded a penalty after a challenge from Harlee Dean on Lucas Joao. To make matters worse the skipper was shown a second yellow and then a red card, with it seeming that the momentum had shifted.

Step forward Etheridge. Renowned for his ability saving penalties, the stopper sprung to his right to deny 11-goal man Joao and remarkably keep Blues in front.

Despite this moment of ecstasy, Blues faced another 19 minutes plus added time with a man less. So, recognising the challenge that lay ahead, Karanka introduced Mikel San Jose’s experience at the back, the nous of Lukas Jutkiewicz offensively and the legs of Gary Gardner.

And all of these, combined with those who had played from the off, showed the necessary spirit to keep right on to the end of the game, ensuring Blues claimed a thoroughly deserved victory in Berkshire.

Reading (4-3-3): Rafael, Tom Holmes (Tomas Esteves 61), Omar Richards, Liam Moore (captain), Michael Morrison, Andy Rinomhota, Josh Laurent, Michael Olise (Alfa Semedo 58), Yakou Meite, Ovie Ejaria (Sone Aluko 83), Lucas Joao.

Substitutes not used: Luke Southwood, Tom McIntyre, Lewis Gibson, Dejan Tetek, Jayden Onen, Sam Baldock.

Booking: Meite.

Blues (4-2-3-1): Neil Etheridge, Maxime Colin, Marc Roberts, Harlee Dean (captain), Kristian Pedersen, Maikel Kieftenbeld, Ivan Sunjic, Ivan Sanchez (Gary Gardner 74), Jonathan Leko, Jon Toral (Mikel San José 74), Scott Hogan (Lukas Jutkiewicz 74).

Substitutes not used: Andrés Prieto, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Jake Clarke-Salter, Riley McGree, Alen Halilović, Adam Clayton.

Booking: Hogan 39, Dean 66, A. Karanka 72, Etheridge 80, Leko 88.

Referee: Tim Robinson