Rakels and Meite score in U23s' draw
The Royals' Under-23s were forced to settle for just a single point from their Premier League 2 meeting with Leicester City at Madejski Stadium, as the visitors recovered a two-goal deficit to share the spoils.
Reading were cruising in the early stages – the game had barely passed the 10-minute mark when Deniss Rakels and Yakou Meite had each found the net to put the Royals in the ascendency.
The Foxes levelled before half-time though – skipper Elliott Moore headed in from a wide free-kick, before Hamza Choudhury equalised from the penalty spot.
Despite plenty of effort, a goalless second half meant that neither team could quite grasp the three points they coveted from the fixture.
It was an experienced Royals side that was named for the Premier League 2 encounter – no less than eight of the starters had made first-team appearances for Reading.
Meanwhile there was also a familiar name in the visiting squad – Royals Academy graduate Ben Hamer began between the sticks.
The Royals had the run of the play in the early stages – although the Foxes were the first to threaten an opener, as Liandro Martis and Lamine Kaba Sherif each fired tame efforts at George Legg, and Hamza Choudhury pulled a shot wide.
But the Royals led in the sixth minute through Rakels – the Latvian, initially frustrated that a low cross had been taken out of his stride by strike-partner Meite, stayed switched on after Danzell Gravenberch’s thunderous effort had been miraculously turned onto the bar by Hamer. Rakels accepted the invitation and slammed in from close range.
And Meite was presented with an even bigger gift just five minutes later – the forward sprung into life to latch onto a loose back-pass, took one touch to round Hamer, and another to slot in the Royals’ second.
However Leicester continued to threaten and were eventually rewarded with a goal – it was captain Moore who stood firm in the six-yard box to nip in and head home Connor Wood’s free-kick from the right.
And the advantage was relinquished when Kaba Sherif drew a foul in the box, nipping between Reece Oxford and goalkeeper Legg to earn his side a penalty. Choudhury’s stuttering run-up was followed by a calm strike which sent Legg the wrong way.
Reading could count themselves unfortunate not to take a lead into the interval, twice striking the woodwork – captain Andy Rinomhota hit fiercely from range, but his effort thundered against the bar, down onto the line, and back into play. Rakels couldn’t convert on the follow-up this time… Hamer made a sprawling save as he tried to nod in from a tight angle.
And then the post came to the Foxes’ rescue as Tennai Watson latched onto a threaded ball by Josh Barrett and struck hard and low across the face of goal. Oxford had a chance late on as a free-kick was cleared his way – a clean, fierce strike was straight at Hamer.
Continuing the second period in similar vein, Barrett stepped in off the left and tested Hamer with a dipping effort – the stopper couldn’t hold, but got enough of his body in the way.
Wood, provider of the Foxes’ first, was close to completing a turnaround for the visitors – after Martis drew a foul, the full-back’s free-kick landed on the roof of the net via a deflection off the wall.
With 15 minutes to play, the woodwork was rattled for the third time of the night – this time it was Leicester who came close, as a whipped cross was met by Oxford but turned against his own bar. Seconds later, at the other end, Rinomhota’s cut-back found sub Danny Loader but his close-range effort was blocked.
Leicester mounted a late attack down the right and Oxford did well to steer a low cross over his own bar on the stretch, with runners waiting to pounce in the six-yard box.
With the game’s last action, Tiago Ilori couldn’t quite steer his header on target from a free-kick by Ryan East as the Royals had to make do with a single point.
Full-time: Reading U23 2-2 Leicester City U23
Reading U23: Legg, Watson, Richards, Oxford, Dickie, Ilori, Gravenberch (East HT), Rinomhota, Barrett (Frost 89), Meite, Rakels (Loader HT).
Unused subs: Southwood, Osho.
Goals: Rakels, Meite.
Leicester City U23: Hamer, Johnson (Pascanu 65), Wood, Hammond, Moore, Knight, Kaba Sherif (Watts 72), Choudhury, Brown (Eppiah 82), Martis, Gordon.
Unused subs: Iversen, Dewsbury-Hall.
Goals: Moore, Choudhury (pen).