Everton end Royals' cup runThe Royals' Capital One Cup campaign came to an end at the hands of Premier League Everton tonight, but the Toffees had to come from behind to edge past a Reading outfit who perhaps deserved more from a very closely-fought encounter.
Nick Blackman gave Steve Clarke's men the lead when he connected with an early Ola John cross and leathered the ball past Joel Robles in the Everton goal. But a Ross Barkley volley and Gerard Deulofeu's free-kick brought Roberto Martinez's side back into it in the second half and the visitors held on to ensure their name would be in the hat for the next round.
Steve Clarke made wholesale changes to his starting eleven, handing full debuts to Paolo Hurtado, Ola John, Alex Fernandez and Lucas Piazon amongst eight changes in total. Everton, meanwhile, named a very strong starting line-up that included the likes of Lukaku, Barkley, Kone, Osman, Lennon, Jagielka and Stones.
And the Toffees began the brighter, Barkley nicking the ball off Fernandez and reaching the byline only to see his cut back cleared by the left boot of Hector. Kone then dragged an effort wide from the edge of the area after Tshibola had seen Reading's first effort at goal charged down.
Nick Blackman then tested Joel Robles with a rasping effort that was arrowing into the top corner until the Everton keeper tipped it over the crossbar. And the Royals were growing into the game, Fernandez lofting a lovely ball into the box that Hurtado almost got on the end of.
Blackman then showed good strength to break from the half-way line and he looked to thread a ball into the run of Piazon only for Stones to step in and intercept before it could reach the Brazilian.
Cooper did well to prevent Kone from flicking goalwards at the near post, but Reading came close to taking the lead when a very neat piece of interplay on the edge of the area released Blackman and Robles raced off his line to save the striker's effort with his sprawling body.
With ten minutes of the half remaining, Tshibola was allowed to take a shot from 25 yards out and Robles couldn't gather it, punching it behind for a corner. Piazon delivered the set piece, John flicked it on at the near post and Cooper's long leg was inches away from getting a decisive touch at the far post.
Moments later, the Royals took the lead and deservedly so. Taylor burst forward down the left, fed the overlapping John who delivered an early ball into the box. Blackman bore down in it and got there with the defender to direct it past Robles and high into the Everton net. Madejski Stadium erupted as Steve Clarke's men led.
The Toffees looked to respond and it was Cooper who stretched a leg out to clear a corner away from the lurking Lukaku. The lively Deulofeu looked for a penalty when his path was blocked in the area, but referee Keith Hill shook his head and Reading went into the dressing room ahead at the interval.
Half-time:Reading 1 Everton 0
Gareth Barry was introduced at the break with Kone coming off, and minutes into the second half Stones limped off to be replaced by Brendan Galloway. Everton were looking for a response early in the second half, but the Royals were keeping things tight at the back - Deulofeu caught by the offside trap as he scampered through on goal.
At the other end, Reading continued to pose a real threat. Ola John recieved the ball to feet and found the space to pull the trigger, drilling just over from the edge of the box.
But it was a vert well struck volley from Ross Barkley that levelled matters just after the hour. A corner was cleared at the near post but Barkley got over the dropping ball and powerfully drove the ball past the dive of Al Habsi and into the bottom right corner for 1-1.
Stunning footwork from Tshibola unlocked the Everton defences and he threaded a ball into John, whose low cross skidded behind everyone arriving in the box.
But Everton took the lead with 17 minutes left on the clock. Hector was forced to halt Barkley's burst forward with a tug on the shirt, conceding a free kick, and Deulofeu struck the set piece well towards the bottom left corner. Al Habsi got a hand to it but it crept in off the inside of the post and the Premier League side had the lead for the first time.
Danny Williams was brought on in place of John for the final ten minutes, but Al Habsi had to be quick off his line to slide at the feet of Lukaku as the Belgian stole in behind looking for a third to kill the tie off.
A long, long passing move almost built up to an equaliser though, a headed clearance falling to the feet of McCleary whose shot deflected past the desperate dive of the wrong-footed Robles and just wide of the right post.
Gunter's low cross late on was gobbled up by Robles and Williams arced an injury time effort just over, but Reading's cup exploits would end for 2015 despite an impressive display against a first choice Everton side.
Full time: Reading 1 Everton 2
Reading: Al Habsi, Gunter, Taylor, Hector (c), Cooper, Tshibola, Fernandez, Piazon, John (Williams 78), Hurtado (McCleary 65), Blackman.
Unused subs: Moore, Obita, McShane, Norwood, Cox.
Yellow: Hurtado, Piazon, Hector.
Everton: Robles, Lennon, Funes Mori, Stones (Galloway 49), Jagielka (c), Osman, Deulofeu, McCarthy, Barkley, Kone (Barry HT), Lukaku.
Unused subs: Howard, Galloway, Gibson, Browning, Rodrigues, Naismith.
Referee: Mr K Hill
Att: 19,435 (3,980 away)