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U21s suffer extra-time heartbreak in Cup semi final

26 February 2015

Blackburn 2-1 Reading (AET)

Defending champions Reading bowed out of the U21s Premier League Cup at the semi-final stage following an extra-time defeat against Blackburn Rovers on Thursday evening.

After falling behind early in the game, the Royals went on to dominate proceedings and deservedly levelled through Tariqe Fosu's superb, low strike on 79 minutes.

Substitute Harry Cardwell came within inches of connecting with a Jack Stacey cross in the dying stages of regulation time as the visitors probed for a winner but Blackburn rediscovered their lead from the penalty spot just minutes into the additional half an hour.

Bradley Bauress converted from 12 yards following a foul by Liam Kelly but, despite striking the woodwork three times throughout the evening, Reading could not find an equaliser to take the tie to penalties.

Rovers will now play either Southampton or Derby County in a two-legged final.

Martin Kuhl's side started brightly with Stacey causing his full-back some early problems down the right-hand side. Aaron Kuhl tested home stopper David Raya on six minutes with a dipping drive that had to be turned over the crossbar.

With 10 minutes on the clock, Fosu stepped up to a free-kick that he could only direct narrowly wide and six minutes later the lively Stacey cut in from the left and unleashed a low shot that Raya did well to hold.

Blackburn went ahead, though, when Sam Lavelle's header from a corner deflected into the net, in what was Rovers' first attempt on goal.

But undeterred, the Royals came straight back at them. Stacey reached the byline and Ryan Edwards met his cross with a neat flick that pinged off the goal frame and away to safety. The Australian then found some space in behind the Blackburn defence but Raya was quickly off his line to mop up the danger.

Two minutes after the break, a long Sammi Fridjonsson throw-in caused panic in the penalty area, with the ball just not dropping at the feet of Novakovich.

Fosu chopped in from the left 20 minutes into the second period and fired just wide of the near post. He would soon reap the rewards from a similar scenario, however. Before that, Novakovich curled agonisingly wide following some excellent footwork inside the penalty area, while Dan Lincoln made a brilliant, point-blank save to deny Rovers' Yann Songo'o at the other end.

Reading continued to probe and 11 minutes from the end the roaming Fosu picked up possession in a wide-left position. He came inside, beat his man and thumped a more-than-deserved equaliser in at the near post.

Substitute Harry Cardwell came within a whisker of connecting with Stacey's low cross late on and fellow replacement Kelly rammed a shot into the side netting inside stoppage time.

The tie ended level after 90 minutes but five minutes into extra time Kelly pulled down his man inside the penalty area. Bauress stepped up and sent Lincoln the wrong way to make it 2-1.

The Royals continued to push and Cardwell was the second visitor to test the goal frame on 109 minutes. He latched onto Fosu's through ball before firing against the outside of the left-hand post.

And they came even closer with one of the contest's final kicks. Lincoln travelled forward for a free-kick that Kelly launched into the box, Pierce Sweeney flicked on and Novakovich thumped against the upright from six yards.

The opportunity summed up Reading's evening and after dominating for the majority of 120 minutes, they were forced to head back down south empty handed.

Blackburn: Raya, Nyambe (Cham 70), Edgar, Carson (c), Songo'o, Lavelle, Thomson, Bauress, Mansell (Rittenburg 113), Green (Tanner 78), Mahoney.
Not used: Crump, Tanner

Reading: Lincoln, Long, Griffin, Sweeney, Keown, Kuhl, Fridjonsson (Kelly 75), Stacey, Fosu, Edwards (Cardwell 59), Novakovich.
Not used: Ward, Hyam, Shaughnessy. 

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