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Report: Royals see off Saudi opponents in Arnhem

15 July 2016

Williams and Kermorgant add to opening own-goal

A wholly positive trip to the Netherlands ended with an added bonus in the form of a 3-1 win against Saudi Arabian top-tier outfit Al-Taawoun.

It was a well-contested friendly fixture on Dutch soil against an energetic and creative opponent.  An own-goal gave the Royals the advantage and Danny Williams doubled the lead a minute later; Yann Kermorgant rounded off the scoring with the last action of the match, after the lead had been halved late in the game by Ahmed Zain.

Manager Jaap Stam made two changes to the starting XI which he had deployed at Boreham Wood a week earlier, as Joseph Mendes and triallist Gaston Campi both came in to start.  But like the game in the capital, the manager gave plenty of players an opportunity to get minutes into their legs when substitutions kicked in from half-time onwards.

Goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi had to make the first save of the match, but the Royals had a few good openings – winger Garath McCleary volleyed over from the edge of the area, and then came close to finding the head of Paul McShane with a cross which was just about picked off by the goalkeeper.

Again McCleary was involved in an attacking probe midway through the first half as he shimmied into space on the right and played in Mendes; the debutant dwelt a moment too long and the chance to score passed as a tackle came in.

Midfield man George Evans had a chance to hit the net from just outside the area after Tennai Watson had been hacked down – but his free-kick curled a yard over the crossbar.

However that effort wayward effort belatedly led to a goal – Al-Taawoun opted to go short with their free-kick, and pressure applied by McCleary and Danny Williams forced defender Sandro Manoel to pass the ball past his own goalkeeper and into the net.

One became two just moments later.  Captain McShane scooped a well-weighted pass into the path of Mendes in the channel, and the forward provided a sumptuous cross which Williams guided in with a stooping header.

Half-time sub Kermorgant could have made it three when he rose in trademark fashion to apply a header to a left-flank corner – it whistled over the bar.  Dominic Samuel, also on at the break, created a chance of his own with some skill on the left flank but just about curled over the far corner.

Reading were pegged back ten minutes from time as a pass out of defence was picked off and punished ruthlessly by striker Zain.

But the two-goal margin was restored with virtually the last action of the game – Frenchman Kermorgant set the ball down for a free-kick 25 yards from goal, and lifted it beautifully over the wall to give the Royals a 3-1 win.

While results in friendly fixtures are purely academic, it was a nice way to end what has been a fruitful spell away on the continent for the squad.

Full-time: Reading 3-1 Al-Taawoun

Reading: Al-Habsi (Jaakkola HT), Watson (Dickie 75), Obita (Jules 75), McShane, Campi (Cooper 75), Van den Berg (Kelly 61) Williams, Evans, McCleary (Tanner 61), Rakels (Samuel HT), Mendes (Kermorgant HT).
Goals: Own-goal (39), Williams (40), Kermorgant (90).

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