Rinomhota and Cardwell net in Premier League 2 victoryReading's Under-23s got their Premier League 2 season off to a perfect start with a 2-0 win away at Arsenal - with a performance that merited everything it got.
It took until the 70th minute until the Royals' dominance was rewarded with a goal from a beautifully-taken strike by Andy Rinomhota - and then sub Harry Cardwell added an improvised second to give the Royals a margin.
Arsenal started on the offensive and after some neat wing-play down the right by Reiss Nelson, the ball was fed to Gedion Zelalem – who has already represented the Gunners’ senior squad – but he could only blaze over under pressure.
The Royals were almost caught out a couple of times as they conceded the ball high upfield as they tried to play out from the back. But as they settled into their rhythm, that willingness to keep the ball on the deck and play possession football began to create opportunities for the boys in blue and white hoops.
After spending the first ten minutes on top, the Gunners were suddenly dealing with wave after wave of Reading attacks. A neat exchange on the left between Tariqe Fosu and Josh Barrett resulted in the latter drawing a low sprawling save from Matt Macey, who pushed round the post.
Andy RInomhota and Jack Stacey both put in low, testing crosses from the right flank which were dealt with awkwardly but effectively, as the ball wouldn’t quite sit for the attackers flowing into the box. In an increasingly rare Arsenal attack, Zak Jules was placed perfectly to cut out Ismael Bennacer’s cross after he wormed into the area.
As well as building from the back, Reading were also demonstrating explosive quality on the counter-attack. After Danzell Gravenberch won the ball and set off Aaron Kuhl, the midfielder played a quick release for Barrett, whose stinging strike was just kept out by the goalkeeper.
Craig Tanner was the first player to make the net ripple – but the assistant ruled it out. He bundled in at the second attempt after receiving in the six-yard box from a Stacey cross, but he was incensed to see the offside flag raised. Soon after Rinomhota blazed over from 12 yards out, as he was afforded time to control Shane Griffin’s cross.
Reading could have taken a lead within 30 seconds of the restart, but Novakovich was a whisker away from applying a decisive touch to Stacey's cross. Tanner then volleyed over the bar after Fosu had won the ball upfield and fed left-back Griffin to send in the dangerous delivery.
A quick Gunners break through Stephy Mavididi could have ended with a goal, but Fosu showed willing to get back and help out the defence, show the attacker outside, and win the ball cleanly. The same player was wasteful from a set-piece scenario, blazing high over Jonathan Bond's goal.
But the opener came on 70 minutes and it was no less than the Royals deserved. Griffin worked a lovely opening down the left and fed Fosu... his stinging effort was turned away, but Rinomhota followed in from the edge of the area with a thunderous half-volley which goalkeeper Macey didn't even see before it was past him.
Goalkeeper Bondtake was largely untested all night - but he was alert when it mattered to take the ball off the feet of Mavididi who had burst clean through into the box.
And that allowed Reading to double their advantage through sub Cardwell with ten minutes to play - as Fosu's cross was deflected, he stole a march on the goalkeeper and controlled with his chest before acrobatically beating Macey at his near post.
Reading were denied late shouts of a penalty when Fosu went down in the area - but it mattered little as the Royals took all three points.
Full-time: Arsenal U23 0-2 Reading U23
Arsenal U23s: Macey, Johnson, Pileas, Bennacer (Dragomir 87), Da Graca, Sheaf, Nelson, Zelalem (McGuane 61), Mavididi, Maitland-Niles, Willock (Kamara 61).
Unused subs: Keto, Bola.
Reading U23: Bond, Stacey, Griffin, Gravenberch (Hyam 66), Jules, Barrett, Kuhl, Rinomhota, Tanner, Fosu, Novakovich (Cardwell 72).
Unused subs: Southwood, Osho, Bennett.
Goals: Rinomhota (70), Cardwell (80).