Reading FC Match Report: 2019/2020 Season - Championship
READING 0 LEEDS 1
Leeds: J Harrison (87)
Leeds United moved to the top of the table with a late goal to deny Reading a point they had worked so hard to achieve. The goal came from a very quick counter attack after John Swift's free kick from just outside the box had been saved by the Leeds 'keeper Casilla. United streamed forward in numbers catching the Royals off guard. Costa's deflected cross was headed in from close range by Jack Harrison at the far post. It was a cruel blow for Reading who had defended magnificently against a Leeds side who had played some superb passing football throughout the game.
Enforced changes due to Baldock's injury and Yiadom's suspension saw Gunter come in at right back and Meite start up front alongside Puscas. Leeds started with the swagger of a team pushing for automatic promotion. Their passing and movement at times was mesmerising. They exuded class with flicks, dummies, excellent touch, and a full range of accurate passing. Reading deserve credit for their defensive qualities in restricting them to a mere two strikes on target in the entire match. In fact the best effort of the first half was a firm downward header from Mieite as half time approached which required Casilla to get down to smartly to keep out.
Reading found it difficult to get out of their own half for long periods of the first half. Leeds closed down Reading quickly and pressed high up the pitch. Having to play the ball long was often the best and only option. Meite rose to the occasion winning everything in the air. He was direct in his running and almost found Puscas in the box with a cross after a pacy run from just inside his own half. Swift's passing, often under pressure and with limited options, was wayward. Ejaria produced some sublime moments of individual skill which resulted United's players lunging in the wrong direction as he weaved his way in and out of very tight situations miraculously keeping the ball at his feet.
As the second half wore on Reading had begun to frustrate United with their disciplined defending and organisation at the back, and often looked a threat on the break. United increasingly dominated possession and it seemed inevitable a goal would come for the visitors. Pressure mounted on the Reading defence as the corner count increased (eleven in total eventually) but Reading stood firm even though they found it increasing difficult to play out of defence. Leeds came close to taking the lead in the sixty-fourth minute when Dallas rattled the bar from outside the box. Four minutes later in a rare Reading attack the ball fell to Morrison around inside the box but his attempt drifted just over the bar but it was a very good chance. Had it gone in it would have been a very different game.
The game entered the final phase and Boye replaced the weary Puscas. Reading were looking likely to hang on for a point as full time approached. Boye quickly settled and was involved in some intricate promising exchanges of passes around the Leeds box. Four minutes from the end Ejaria won a free-kick close to the United twenty-five yards out. Swift's strike was pushed away by Casilla and Leeds instantly broke forward and finished with ruthless efficiently which is why they will probably at long last win the promotion they have come so close to achieving in recent seasons. Reading resorted to hoofing the ball forward in stoppage time which didn't really look like working and United saw the time out comfortably for the win they probably deserved.
Reading will be left to reflect on two narrow defeats against two very good passing sides in the space of four days. Reading have learned how to successfully defend as a team. The system is now well established to the extent that Chris Gunter was able to drop into his familiar full back role very successfully after a very long absence from the first team. Last night Leeds gave them a lesson in how to attack as team. They must now move on and learn how to attack with in a way which will utilise the undoubted talent available within the squad. In his post-match interview Mark Bowen sounded confident that his team will continue to improve and I see no reason to support the view that his confidence is misplaced.
This Championship game took place 129 days ago in the 2019/2020 season.