Lawson D'Ath scored on his return as the Royals lost 3-1 at Manchester City in their first match of 2013.
Reading's youngsters had a tough task made even trickier when the hosts established a two goal lead after just 13 minutes.
Nick Arnold smashed the side-netting and Ryan Edwards hit the post - before D'Ath goal set up a tense finale.
But City ensured all three points at the Regional Athletics Stadium thanks to an impressive strike from Albert Rusnak.
A typically youthful Royals side lined up for their first Group Two clash of the 2013 phase, with City naming a side littered with international talent.
Chris Cummins' men fell behind in the ninth minute, when striker John Guidetti slid in a Marcos Lopes cross. The full Swedish international, also making a comeback, made no mistake from close range to give City the lead.
One became two just minutes later. The impressive Lopez was the provider again as played in former Real Madrid starlet Jose Angel Pozo - whose strike took a wicked deflection to stump Royals goalkeeper Jon Henly.
The Royals nearly halved the deficit immediately, but Arnold hit the side-netting after a well-worked counter attacking move.
Reading dug deep to cope with the flamboyant talent City had on show, and nearly found a way back into the game when Brynjar Gunnarsson stung the hands of goalkeeper Eirik Johansen with a fierce effort.
Edwards then smashed the post, before City failed to get the better of Henly on two one-on-one situations. But with 15 minutes left, D'Ath netted at the back post to give the Royals renewed hope.
Despite pushing for the equaliser, City killed the game off thanks to a touch of class - as Henly had no chance from Rusnak's fine late strike.
It was, however, a useful run-out for the youngsters - who will face Stoke at home next Monday.
Manchester City: Johansen, Facey, Leigh, Evans, Boyata, Rekik, Suarez (Mancini 86), Rusnak, Guidetti (Cole 45), Lopes, Pozo (Ntcham)
Subs not used: Lawlor, Plummer.
Reading: Henly, Arnold, Webb, Gunnarsson, Sweeney, Partridge, Sheppard, Edwards (Losasso 67), Ugwu, D'Ath, Obita
Subs not used: Moore, Dickie, Owusu, McLennan.