Reading's Carabao Cup campaign came to an end for 2018-19 at the hands of Premier League Watford, who were 2-0 winners at Madejski Stadium on Wednesday evening.
- Isaac Success nets the opener in first half for the Hornets
- Domingos Quina smashes in a second just after the hour
- Hornets progress to Third Round of Carabao Cup
It was a fixture that allowed Reading to show their stuff against Premier League opposition - and for the most part the Royals were able to show mettle and ability against their top-tier opposition.
But Isaac Success's goal, which came in the 37th minute, set the Hornets on their way to the Third Round.
And a piledriver from Domingos Quina, just after the hour-mark, put the tie firmly in the visitors' control as they secured passage to the next stage.
Royals boss Paul Clement made a number of amendments to his starting XI – that included a first start of the campaign for Chris Gunter, continuing his return from injury, as well as a first start for John O’Shea after his debut in the previous round against Birmingham City.
There were two familiar faces in the Hornets’ ranks too – Adrian Mariappa captained the side, while former loanee Nathaniel Chalobah was also in Javi Gracia’s starting line-up.
Marc McNulty, who began in attack, was the first to register a shot – a quick interchange with Liam Kelly allowed the forward to strike from the best part of 25 yards, but his effort ballooned up and over.
It was all Reading in the early stages against their top-tier opponents – lots of crisp passing, intelligent movement and calmness in possession. Wing-backs Omar Richards and Gunter – playing as part of a back five – were regularly up and adjacent to the Hornets’ box in support of the Reading attack.
But then the visitors began to see more of the ball, while the Royals were concentrating more on keeping compact and denying space. Domingos Quina lashed wildly at the ball from wide on the right, never troubling Sam Walker as it dropped wide on the far side.
Former Royal Chalobah was next to register an effort – Ken Sema won a foul just outside the area, and the midfielder launched a dipping effort which flew over the crossbar from the set piece.
Watford nearly stole a fortuitous lead when Isaac Success closed down goalkeeper Walker – he blocked the initial clearance, but O’Shea was alert enough to be in the right place to mop up and clear.
As the first half reached its midpoint, McNulty had a glorious chance to open his account – Gunter’s cross from the byline was totally missed by Ben Wilmot on the six-yard line, but the Scotsman snatched at his effort with Sebastian Prodl breathing down his neck. Over the bar.
And the momentum was back with Reading as they again began to control the play and create chances. Some cool play in defence between Tiago Ilori and O’Shea saw the latter play a delightful round-the-corner ball which almost released Meite; his first touch as he raced down the right was a fraction too heavy, allowing Wilmot to nip the ball away.
But ten minutes before the interval, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock. A pinpoint ball into the channel by Chalobah released Adam Masina, who in turn put in a great low cross to allow Success to round Walker and slot in the opener.
John Swift could have levelled within two minutes as he dipped a powerful free-kick on target from 25 yards - Heurelho Gomes read the flight well and gathered.
Half-time: Reading 0-1 Watford
Josh Sims was introduced at the interval in place of Swift, making his first appearance at Madejski Stadium since linking up on loan from Southampton.
Success had a chance to double the visitors' tally early in the second half - again Masina was the architect, crossing at pace from the left, but the forward's header was wayward from close range... a good opportunity wasted.
Down the other end, Hornets skipper Mariappa denied Sims a clear route to goal with a perfectly-timed challenge - flick-ons in turn by Meite and McNulty almost released the winger clean through, before the challenge arrived.
Just after the hour-mark, Marc Navarro steamed forward and forced a save from Walker from a tight angle; he overlapped and received from Sema, but the stopper kept it out.
But a minute later, he was helpless as Quina hammered right into the postage stamp; no chance for the goalkeeper. The Royals had dealt with the corner as Ilori cleared, but the midfielder gathered outside the area, stepped into space a leathered in Watford's second.
Sam Baldock and Andy Yiadom were introduced as reinforcements soon after, in the hope of getting back into the game.
There was no lack of endeavour from Reading, but the clock ticked away quickly as the Premier League side limited the hosts' chances. Hornets sub Stefano Okaka could only apply a glancing header when he needed to apply power to Kiko Femenia's delivery from the left.
With ten minutes to play, Liam Kelly could have grabbed one back as he collected in the area on his chest as a ball was half-cleared, only to slice his effort wide on the half-volley.
And just after Navarro had been kept out at one end by Walker, McNulty was again denied - breaking the line to race onto a straight ball by Sims, he lifted it over the advancing Gomes... only for Mariappa to recover in time to prevent it crossing the line.
The Royals had a flurry of chances to make it interesting late on - one of the best falling to Meite, who picked up on the far side after Bacuna's set piece was headed clear, but the goalie adjusted well and showed safe hands.
Ultimately Reading's efforts went unrewarded - Watford have their name in the next round of the Carabao Cup.
Full-time: Reading 0-2 Watford
Reading: Walker, Gunter, Richards (Yiadom 63), Moore (c), Ilori, O’Shea (Baldock 65), Bacuna, Kelly, Swift (Sims HT), Meite, McNulty.
Subs: Jaakkola, McShane, Clement, Rinomhota.
Watford: Gomes, Masina, Mariappa (c), Prodl, Navarro, Sema (Okaka 65), Chalobah (Hughes 86), Wilmot, Quina (Doucoure 81), Feminia, Success.
Subs: Dahlberg, Gray, Janmaat, Cathcart.
Goals: Success 37, Quina 62.
Attendance: 9,265 (2,514 away)
Referee: Mr A Davies