Report from Premier League meeting at Madejski StadiumReading’s Under-23s came from behind to take a terrific 2-1 win against Chelsea at Madejski Stadium, thanks to second-half goals by Tyler Frost and Sam Smith.
Ike Ugbo had headed the visitors ahead just before the interval, but two smartly-taken goals by Reading – the latter coming in the 87th minute – were enough to give Reading a well-earned three points against a talented Blues side.
It was a Royals squad with a number of teenagers in it – including 18-year-old duo Harrison Bennett and Josh Barrett, as well as 17-year-old pair Tyler Frost and Tom McIntyre from the Academy.
Chelsea’s squad boasted some pro experience in it, however – goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney and defender Jake Clarke-Salter are currently out on loan with Newport and Bristol Rovers respectively, but still eligible to play in the Premier League 2.
The visitors started on the front foot and put a few testing balls into the area – the Royals had early countering opportunities through Andy Rinomhota and Harry Cardwell, each of whom ran into traffic as they broke forward. Zak Jules also made an important block to deny Mukhtar Ali as the Blues man found a pocket of space.
But Reading were showing plenty of quality of their own on the ball – and a swift piece of forward play almost resulted in the opening goal. The front three combined to near-devastating effect – Andrija Novakovich sprayed out to Josh Barrett on the right, who crossed in turn for Cardwell… but the striker couldn’t quite make a telling contact in the six-yard box.
Goalkeeper Stuart Moore was called into meaningful action for the first time midway through the first period as he got a vital touch to a low Charlie Wakefield delivery. That allowed the Royals to counter through Novakovich – his quick feet allowed him to burst through the inside left, but eventually he ran out of space.
Blues strike Ugbo almost profited when a couple of loose touches under the attention of a high press allowed the Chelsea man to steal in, but Moore was alert to the curling effort and pulled off an acrobatic diving save.
While Reading were comfortable in the midfield third, the ball was finding its way into the Royals box more often than the visitors’. Forward Mason Mount was denied twice within the space of two minutes – vicious strikes hit the woodwork and the palms of Moore in succession.
The Royals did begin to see more and more possession as the first period drew to a close and, after Barrett had won a corner on the right after some neat combinations, his corner found its way to centre-half Jules. He controlled on his thigh but volleyed over the Mitchell Beeney’s goal.
And a couple of minutes before the interval, Chelsea finally got the breakthrough – Wakefield just about rode a Shane Griffin challenge, and found a yard to put the ball into a dangerous area for Ugbo to head in from six yards.
But five minutes after the interval, the Royals were back on terms. It was quick feet and powerful play by Novakovich that allowed the forward to release Frost, who hammered in via the far post for the leveller.
Barrett had the chance to turn the game on its head just a minute later as well, after being released through the middle by Bennett – however goalkeeper Beeney stood tall and denied the Reading man with a one-on-one save.
Centre-half pairing Jules and McIntyre both made critical interceptions in their own area. Chelsea captain Jay Dasilva wasn’t far away from reopening a Chelsea lead as he flashed a free-kick wide from just outside the area, and then striker Ugbo called Moore into action again with a stinging effort as he drifted in off the left and fired hard and low.
The game looked to be drifting towards a draw… until sub Smith grabbed a delightful goal with just three minutes of normal time remaining! Played through on goal, the substitute rode the tackle of full-back Trevor Chalobah and curled beyond the goalkeeper and inside the far post to give the Royals the lead with minutes to spare.
Chelsea put on some later pressure, but nothing that the youthful defence wasn’t equal to. Another well-earned and battling three points for our fledgling players.
Full-time: Reading U23 2-1 Chelsea U23
Reading U23: Moore, Sheppard, Griffin, McIntyre, Jules, Bennett (East 71), Rinomhota, Frost, Barrett (Vancooten 65), Novakovich, Cardwell (Smith 82).
Unused subs: Southwood, Andresson, Smith.
Goals: Frost (52), Smith (87).
Chelsea U23: Beeney, Sterling, Chalobah, Clarke-Salter, Dasilva (c), Ali, Sammut, Wakefield, Mount (Christie-Davies 74), Muheim (Quintero 57), Ugbo.
Unused subs: Dabo, Cummings, Colley.
Goal: Ugbo (43).