Leeds edge five-goal thrillerThe Royals were on the wrong end of a five-goal thriller at Elland Road this afternoon, as Leeds United stole a late win despite goals from Michael Hector and Deniss Rakels in Yorkshire.
Reading took the lead through Michael Hector's far post volleyed finish from a Norwood free kick. But early in the second half Leeds levelled when Toumani Diagouraga headed home from a Bellusci cross.
United took the lead when Chris Wood ghosted onto a Taylor cross from the left to head in off the left upright, but substitute Deniss Rakels drew the Royals level with a close range finish following Cox's arrowed effort against the crossbar. Steve Evans' men got a third soon after though, Wood catching the Royals in possession at the back and passing the ball home for 3-2 - and that ended an end-to-end affair.
Suspensions to Danny Williams and Paul McShane as well as injuries to Chris Gunter and Jordan Obita meant a host of changes to the squad - Garath McCleary started on the right side of defence, Andrew Taylor on the left, while Michael Hector lined up in the middle of the back four. George Evans was handed a start in midfield, while Academy trio Josh Barrett, Aaron Kuhl and Tennai Watson were named on the bench. Ali Al Habsi, meanwhile, took the captain's armband for the first time.
The first chance fell for the home side and a recycled cross from the right was driven at goal from a narrow angle by Mirco Antenucci. Al Habsi couldn't gather it cleanly so Cooper needed to hack the ball clear as it headed for the far post.
The next chance was a good one and it went Reading's way. Taylor's ball forward was dummied by Vydra and Cox was in behind the back line, but Marco Silvestri was equal to his sidefooted strike, saving with his legs to deny Tuesday night's goalscorer.
Reading won possession again and Norwood delivered a good corner that United failed to clear. The ball dropped to Evans tho swung a leg at the loose ball and a deflection took it inches wide, although only a goal kick was awarded.
With a quarter of an hour played, Wood profited from a charged down Hector clearance and fed Antenucci who sliced his shot from the edge of the area well wide. But at the other end soon after, Quinn's inswinging corner was met by Hector's head but the centre-back couldn't direct his effort on target.
A nice move on the half hour saw Taylor deliver a near post cross that was cut out before it could reach Cox, then Wood sprung the offside trap at the other end but wasted his chance to cross from the right - both teams were intent on attacking in search of that all-important opening goal.
Another Quinn corner caused panic in the Leeds defence but no-one in an away shirt could stab the ball goalwards in a crowded penalty area. Then Quinn started another promising Reading attack which ended with Cox shooting just wide from 20 yards out.
And Reading deservedly took the lead soon after. Cox rolled Bellusci and the defender hauled him to the ground to concede a free kick. Norwood delivered a lovely deep set play and an unmarked Hector stole in at the far post to pass it past Silvestri from six yards out. He celebrated in the style of fellow Jamaican, West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle, and the Royals had the advantage.
Reading threatened a second, Cox passing it wide from an offside position in the final minute of the half after good work from Vydra had set up Quinn for a shot that deflected into the striker's path. But Hector had to put in a good block in injury time to deny Wood a late sight of goal.
Half-time: Leeds 0 Reading 1
Leeds drew level early in the second half. Gaetano Berardi was found in acres of space on the right and his cross was met by the towering head of Toumani Diagouraga in the middle who beat Al Habsi from close range to make it 1-1.
Wood came close to a second as Leeds found their stride, this time connecting with a cross from the left from Charlie Taylor but glancing a header just wide of the near post.
A neat exchange of passes set up Piazon for a snapshot from the edge of the box but it bounced harmlessly wide, then the Brazilian collected a one-two from Cox to arrow a more powerful effort just wide from a similar position.
But the hosts took the lead with 20 minutes to go when Wood ghosted into the box to head home from 8 yards out, Al Habsi flailing in vain to try and keep it out as it deflected in off the left post.
Quinn came close to an equaliser when Taylor's cut back found the midfielder, only for the Irish international's low drive to deflect off a sliding Leeds challenge and spin wide for a corner.
An excellent save from Silvestri denied Reading next, Taylor getting to the byline and whipping a cross in to Cooper on the far side of the area - but his downward header was parried clear by the keeper's legs.
With nine minutes left, the Royals got their equaliser. Quinn found John down the left and the substitute lifted a tasty cross to the far post where Cox controlled it and hammered a shot against the underside of the crossbar. Quinn scuffed a shot back into the box and it fell to the feet of Deniss Rakels, who turned the ball home from eight yards out. 2-2.
But Leeds restored their lead minutes later. Wood won possession back in a dangerous area and scurried in on goal, passing wide of the onrushing Al Habsi to make it 3-2.
Reading looked to bite back again, but five minutes of added time were signalled and time was running out as Ollie Norwood's inswinging free kick was headed high over by a bundle of bodies. But as the Royals looked for a last gasp leveller, gaps at the back almost allowed Wood a chance to seal his hat-trick, the striker arrowing over from the edge of the area.
The last chance of the game fell to the left foot of Hector, who drilled at goal from just inside the box but a deflection allowed it to dribble through for Silvestri to gather in. And the final whistle brought an entertaining affair to a disappointing end.
Full-time: Leeds 3 Reading 2
Leeds United: Silvestri, Berardi, Bellusci, Cooper (c), Taylor, Diagouraga (Phillips 66), Murphy, Cook, Dallas (Coyle 90), Antenucci (Erwin 80), Wood.
Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Wootton, Sloth, Botaka.
Yellow: Antenucci, Cooper.
Reading: Al Habsi (c), McCleary, Taylor, Cooper, Hector, Evans (Rakels 71), Norwood, Piazon (John 78) Quinn, Cox, Vydra.
Subs: Bond, Watson, Ferdinand, Kuhl, Barrett.
Yellow: Evans, McCleary, Norwood.
Referee: Mr J Simpson