A home debut double for George Pușcaș and a sole strike by John Swift earned Reading their first three points of the campaign with a 3-0 win against Cardiff City.
George Pușcaș, Lucas João, Michael Morrison, Rafael and Pelé were all handed their first run-outs at Madejski Stadium as Reading players; they were joined in the starting XI by Ovie Ejaria, who returns to action in RG2 for the first time since rejoining on loan.
And five minutes into his debut, Pușcaș had his first sighter as John Swift released him in the right channel; the angle wasn’t favourable and his early snapshot popped past Alex Smithies’ far post.
Then goalkeeper Rafael was called into action for the first time when the defence in front of him were expecting an offside flag from a direct ball forward. It wasn’t forthcoming and Joe Ralls smashed with power from outside the area, but the Brazilian showed safe hands.
João and Pușcaș were showing signs of good understanding in their link-up play and almost combined to great effect with a series of quick exchanges; it just ran away from the Romanian as he entered the area. And Cardiff were able to scramble away when Andy Yiadom kept the ball in play with sheer persistence, beat his man on the right and put in a low cross; Ejaria couldn’t find room to improvise a flick.
Midway through the first period came the breakthrough. It was an instant impact from Pușcaș on his home debut – receiving the ball on the right near half-way, the forward scuttled down the flank towards the edge of the area. With a shimmy of his hips, he burst past Will Vaulks and into the area – with other options available, Pușcaș opted for an early left-footed strike which flashed past the goalkeeper and into the net.
Ejaria was enjoying life back in the blue and white – a bit of brilliance from the Liverpool loanee, beating a throng of defenders with some subtle touches, allowed him to fire in a cross which Aden Flint managed to turn over his own crossbar.
Five minutes before the interval, one became two for Reading and Pușcaș. Yiadom, in an advanced wing-back position, rolled a challenge which allowed Swift to pick up possession on the byline. The midfielder fizzed a low cross to the near post, where Pușcaș was sharpest to react and slotted through the legs of Smithies.
Half-time: Reading 2-0 Cardiff City
Early in the second period, Pușcaș had a chance to complete his hat-trick. A loose defensive header allowed Richards to collect unmarked in an advanced position – firing an early cross into the feet of Pușcaș, the ball got caught under the Romanian’s feet and a tackle arrived just in time to prevent him from pulling the trigger.
The Bluebirds were ever a threat when the ball was out for a throw – a launched delivery from the left caused problems to the home defence, but Robert Glatzel scuffed his effort wide from 12 yards.
João used his strength to great effect throughout the game; he began an attack deep in his own half, releasing Swift in space, but he blazed over as he received the return when he entered the area.
And then João went close with a similar move to the one which unlocked Hull City's defence a week earlier. Swift strafed a diagonal from left to right which the Portuguese forward could only divert over the bar.
Rafael hadn't been tested too often - but he was alert when it counted when Glatzel sent a thumping effort goalwards from 20 yards - a fingertip stop kept the Royals' two-goal advantage intact.
Pușcaș was inches away from getting a hat-trick on his home debut when Swift hassled Bacuna on half-way and won the ball back - the striker had a clean run on goal from half-way, but bent his effort a fraction past the post with only the goalkeeper to beat.
But the third goal followed just moments later - another breakaway but this time the net rippled. It was Swift who sprinted into space and opted to shoot with other options available; it was a clean strike which nestled beautifully into the bottom corner. The game wrapped up.
Smithies prevented the scoreline from worsening in stoppage time; Yiadom won a spot-kick for the Royals, drawing a foul with a lung-bursting run into the area, but Yakou Meite's powerful spot-kick was saved. A comprehensive and stylish win nevertheless.
Full-time: Reading 3-0 Cardiff City
Reading: Rafael, Morrison, Miazga, Moore (c), Yiadom, Richards, Pelé, Swift, Ejaria (Rinomhota 85), João (Meite 80), Pușcaș (Boyé 82).
Subs: Virginia, McIntyre, Adam, Barrett.
Goals: Pușcaș (25, 40), Swift (83).
Cardiff City: Smithies, Bennett, Morrison (c), Flint, Vaulks (Paterson HT), Bacuna, Ralls, Glatzel, Pack (Nelson 23), Mendez-Laing, Hoilett (Vassell HT).
Subs: Day, Whyte, Murphy, Bogle.
Yellow: Bacuna, Ralls.