Spanish side held to stalemate at Madejski StadiumReading’s final pre-season fixture of 2015/16 ended in a goalless draw against Spanish Primera Liga outfit Espanyol at Madejski Stadium.
A fixture that was being played in a hearty and competitive spirit briefly boiled over in the second half, and Álvaro Gonzalez and Jordan Obita were each shown straight reds as both teams were reduced to ten men. But defences came out on top in the end, as neither team were able to find the net.
Michael Hector was given the captain’s armband for the Royals against Espanyol on his return from international duty at the Gold Cup with Jamaica.
His countryman Garath McCleary missed out, having picked up a knock in the final of the tournament, but Jonathan Bond and Stephen Quinn – both signed in the summer – made their first appearances at Madejski Stadium in Royals colours. Paul McShane, Orlando Sa and Ali Al-Habsi, who all also joined in the summer, began on the bench.
The fixture got off to a rather delayed start, with striker Burgui twice needing treatment in the opening 20 minutes and consequently the tempo dropped out of the game.
While Reading were moving the ball around well, the first chance of the game went the way of the visitors as full-back Anaitz Arbilla found the ball at his feet in an advanced position, but Aaron Tshibola was well-placed to block.
Then Danny Williams registered the first effort for the Royals – Obita, who signed a new Reading contract on Thursday, delivered a deep cross from the left and the American international volleyed narrowly wide. Soon after, Nick Blackman showed deft control to take a raking ball out of the air, but struck just wide under pressure from the edge of the area.
Sa got his introduction as early as the 25th minute as Pavel Pogrebnyak suffered a knock, while Burgui had to be withdrawn for former Man City striker Felipe Caicedo. Before long, captain Victor Alvarez was also taken off to be replaced by Ruben Duarte as the momentum continued to be stifled.
Ecuadorian forward Caicedo had a golden opportunity to hit the net as the first half drew towards a close – he somehow conspired to turn a low cross from right-back Arbilla wide from six yards out. The assistant referee’s flag, raised for offside, went a small way to saving his blushes.
Reading created some openings of their own before the break, but Tshibola miscued a volley from outside the area and former Swansea City defender José Cañas intervened as Quinn tried to slip in fellow home debutant Sa. The game was goalless at the break, but the card-count was one-apiece as Williams and Lluis Lopez were both shown yellow for mistimed tackles.
Half-time: Reading 0 Espanyol 0
It took until a little before the hour-mark before either goalkeeper had a second-half save to make – it was Germán Parreño, on at the break, who had to be alert after Reading sub Tariqe Fosu had slipped a ball into the path of Sa - the Portuguese striker's low effort well stopped low to Parreño's right.
A spate of substitutions from either side on the hour allowed McShane and Al-Habsi to get their first home run-outs since joining Reading, with Simon Cox also getting an introduction. At the same time, the visiting side made four changes.
One of those introduced was Alvaro Gonzalez – but his stay on the field was short, as he was soon involved in a fracas near to the touchline and was shown a straight red card. Royals defender Obita was also dismissed for a late challenge that sparked the touchline melee as a heated exchange took place.
However chances dried up with both sides a man light – a hopeful punt by Victor Sanchez from his own half was never likely to trouble Al-Habsi, yet it was as close as the visitors came to breaking down the home defence.
Reading had a couple of late chances to break down the left, but Oliver Norwood was held in traffic and a low Chris Gunter cross was dealt with in the six yard box, as the game ended in stalemate.
Full-time: Reading 0 Espanyol 0
Reading: Bond (Al-Habsi 60), Gunter, Obita, Hector (McShane 60), Ferdinand, Tshibola (Fosu HT), Norwood, Quinn (Akpan 74), Williams, Blackman (Cox 60), Pogrebnyak (Sa 25).
Unused subs: Taylor, Samuel, Hyam.
Sent off: Obita (65).
Espanyol: Bardi, Arbilla, V.Álvarez, Caballé, Lluís López, Cañas, Hernán Pérez, Joan Jordán, Burgui, Abraham, Álex.
Subs: Germán, Álvaro, H. Moreno, V. Sánchez, Montañés, Salva Sevilla, Raíllo, Pau, Javi López, Duarte, Caicedo.
Sent off: Álvaro (65).
Referee: Keith Stroud