Reading 1 - West Bromwich Albion 2
Another monster win for our magnificent boys in Green and Yellow.
Bilic went for the same team that battered Millwall and for most of the match it was much of the same.
The 4-2-3-1 often becomes a 4-1-5 with Sawyers sitting deeper and everyone else going for the full Bielsa/Klopp press, pinning the opposition back and going in for wave after wave of attacks, with Krovi hitting the bar early on.
The goal we conceded was bizarre, Bartley handling a corner for no apparent reason but it happened early enough - and we'd been so dominant before it - that it was an irritation more than a huge concern.
The fluid drifting forward line of HRK holding, spinning and releasing and Krov/Robinson/Pereira darting everywhere in... orthogonal (?!)... shapes and lines was just too much for Reading to handle and when they did get a block in Livermore was there steaming in to win it back high and start again. Our passing was quick and sharp too - we took risks in getting it forward quicker rather than going for the slow build up.
Our equaliser was a great move - Robinson showing that end product again by getting a cross away without pissing about and Pereira saw his great left footed volley saved before rattling the rebound in with his right foot.
We should have gone on to score another in the first half but didn't quite find the finish to some brilliant moves.
Second half it was more high octane stuff and our relentless pressure led to Bartley atoning for his earlier error with a looping header into the far corner from a Krovi cross, and again for 15 minutes there could have been more. I think Robinson hit the woodwork again and I think he also put one on a plate for Livermore to blaze over having got all the way up to support another attack.
And then the inevitable happened - we burned out and Bilic had to make subs to try and give us the legs to get over the line. First Krovi and then Robinson making way for Phillips and Grosicki and then finally HRK for Austin.
Reading did cause us problems and neither winger could get into the game as much but I think that was down to most of the other players struggling for energy - we didn't really have enough control to get them into the game although I still thought we looked a threat on the break.
It was a bit of a relief when the final whistle went but we deserved it for the blockbuster 60 minutes.
Some big calls to make on Saturday now and Bilic will probably be damned either way but these two wins have bought us a bit of space such that we don't need to go all out hunting the win on Saturday.
Hats off to the players, coaches and everyone else at the club - for Murphy and Montero in the last window compare them to Robinson and Grosicki. We're looking in really good shape.
BAGGIES EXTEND LEAD AT TOP OF CHAMPIONSHIP
Albion fell behind at the Madejski Stadium, before netting twice to claim the three points and extend our advantage at the top-of-the-table to six points. We played some sensational football for over an hour and then defended well in the closing stages, as Reading pressed forward in an attempt to rescue a draw.
Slaven Bilic picked an unchanged team after our weekend victory at Millwall.
The Baggies came desperately close to scoring in the opening minutes. Robson-Kanu sent Krovinovic racing through on goal and his fierce left footed shot went through the keeper, but somehow bounced up onto the crossbar. In the 11th minute, Johnstone was bundled over the touchline for a corner. From the in-swinging kick, Bartley inexplicably handled; it was a clear penalty. George Puscas stepped up and coolly converted. Despite falling behind, Albion resumed their dominance and Pereira was just inches wide of the post from a free-kick. The all-important equaliser came in the 26th minute. Callum Robinson crossed from the left and Pereira hooked the ball goalwards, the goalkeeper blocked this shot, but Matheus Pereira himself reacted quickest and fired home from close range. There’s no doubt that the Baggies deserved to be at least level at the half-time break.
Albion continued with their delightful quick, crisp passing and immediately after the break, Pereira released Robinson, just inside the box, who swivelled and fired a rising drive which thudded against the crossbar. A corner in the 49th minute led to the winning goal. Robson-Kanu fought for possession in the box and played out to Filip Krovinovic wide left, he cleverly lobbed the ball onto the head of Kyle Bartley who headed back over the keeper into the top corner. There were other opportunities to make the game safe, before Reading began to threaten themselves. Bilic responded by bringing on Phillips and Grosicki, but as if often the case, the underdogs created one last chance. A searching cross by Adam was headed home by Meite, the Ivory Coast international briefly celebrated, before spotting the linesman’s flag was raised for offside. The Baggies saw time out, cue wild celebrations from the travelling supporters as the team came across to join in just as enthusiastically.
This was another fine performance to match or perhaps better the win in London on Sunday. Again, all the players contributed and after his mistake for the penalty, it was good to see Kyle Bartley redeem himself by scoring the winning goal. Jake Livermore stood out by securing the centre of the midfield, as did Krovinovic, Robinson and Robson-Kanu in attack. However, it was the contribution of Matheus Pereira who impressed me the most and earns my man-of-the-match.
In 1920 Reading were one of the original members of Football League Division Three. Albion made their first visit to Elm Park on Saturday 10th September 1927, in a League Division Two match, winning 4-1 in front of 16,238 fans, which remains our biggest away victory over The Royals. Later that season we completed a spectacular double, with a 5-3 victory at The Hawthorns, in which Jimmy Cookson netted four times. Reading moved to their current stadium in 1998 and we played four league games (and four FA Cup ties) without a win, before today’s success.
ALBION FORMRATE: EXCELLENT
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: MATHEUS PEREIRA
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