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Report | Royals edged to defeat in frantic season opener

10-man Sheffield Wednesday emerge as 3-1 winners in RG2

3 August 2019

Reading suffered a defeat on the opening day of the Sky Bet Championship season, as  Sheffield Wednesday took a 3-1 win over the Royals at Madejski Stadium.

Kadeem Harris put the Owls ahead on the half-hour mark in the first half, before a towering header from Yakou Méïté put the Royals level early in the second period.

That scoreline would not last long though, as a header from Sam Hutchinson two minutes later gave the visitors the lead once more. 

Kieren Westwood was sent off 12 minutes from time for the Owls, before Lucas Joao struck in the final moments of added time to make sure of the result for the visitors.

Both sides were testing the water early on in a fast-paced start in a raucous atmosphere at Madejski Stadium. Steven Fletcher provided an early test of João Virgínia's shot-stopping as he unleashed a low drive from the edge of the area - with our loanee goalkeeper equal to it, holding on as he dived to his left.

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A John Swift free-kick was swung in shortly afterwards, Liam Moore got there first to head but his marker managed to get a crucial deflection. The resulting corner made its way into the box, with Yakou Méïté nodding over the bar.

The pace appeared unrelenting in the first quarter-hour, but neither team was able to have a particularly dominant spell on the ball with the respective midfields dicing among themselves.

A lapse of concentration in midfield gifted Wednesday a good chance to go in front, however. Danny Loader's loose pass wrong-footed Andy Yiadom, with the pacey Kadeem Harris able to steal possession and drive into the box. He struck low, with Virgínia getting his body in the way to block.

Up the other end, Swift sprayed a 30-yard ball out wide for Yiadom to chase. He got in the area, cut inside and struck, only to be blocked on the line - it looked on first glance as though it had been handled by Julian Börner, but the referee waved away the appeals, much to the ire of the Reading players and support.

The match soon opened up after that, with the dangerous Harris playing to Barry Bannan on the edge of the box. He curled an effort through a crowded area, only just wide of Virgínia's far post.

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On the half-hour mark, the visitors took the lead. After a ball out to the left, Harris managed to get in behind an off-balance Moore and slot past Virgínia to give Wednesday the advantage.

Reading began to exert their own pressure as half time approached, with Swift's arrowed cross forcing Kieren Westwood into a punch, before Josh Barrett fired back over the bar from the edge of the area.

A second penalty appeal for the Royals would come just before the interval. Fletcher had just been booked for a foul on Swift in midfield, before the playmaker lofted the ball into the box for Fletcher to seemingly climb on Matt Miazga to win the header - nothing doing once again.

In added time, Omar Richards crossed into a dangerous area with Méïté seeing his header blocked over the bar, before the resulting corner saw the Ivorian also nod wide.

A half of frustration for the Royals, but with plenty of attacking intent as they went in a goal behind at the break.

Half time | Reading 0-1 Sheffield Wednesday

The second half started with the same frantic pace with which the first had ended, with both teams trying to establish dominance early on. Goalscorer Harris cut inside on his right foot 18 yards out, but could only blaze over the bar on this occasion.

Wednesday, holding a one-goal advantage, were trying to slow the pace of the game down - but the Royals had other ideas.

A long ball to the left saw Mo Barrow do well to keep the ball in play. He passed back for Barrett, whose superb cross was met by Méïté, who looped a fantastic header over Westwood to put the home side level.

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That parity would last less than two minutes, however. A quick break saw Wednesday win a corner, before the ball was delivered and Sam Hutchinson rose highest, giving Virgínia little hope of saving in front of a packed South Stand.

Just a couple of minutes later, Wednesday broke forward and played in Fletcher, whose glanced header from 15 yards only just missed giving the visitors a third goal. Both sides had their tails up, and the winner of this match was anyone's guess. 

The game had well and truly opened up. Swift switched across to Barrow, whose clever first touch took him away from Odubajo and Lees, but his shot on his weaker foot would not find the target.

A change of personnel and a change of shape followed, with Michael Olise and Charlie Adam introduced for Barrett and Loader as the Royals searched for a second leveller of the game.

Time ticked on and, for all of Reading's pressure, the visitors were doing all they could to take the pace out of proceedings and contain the Royals as best they could.

A quick Reading break saw Méïté out-muscle Kieran Lee in midfield, before the ball worked its way to Barrow. He cut back for Adam to strike - half-a-yard over the bar as the Royals continued to press.

Sensing this danger, Wednesday went on the offensive as they sent on attacking duo, Lucas Joao and Fernando Forestieri to try and stretch their advantage.

Rather than that, the visitors were sent down to 10 men. A sumptuous ball over the defence from Olise saw Barrow clean through on goal. Goalkeeper Westwood sprinted out of his box, clattering the Reading man and promptly receiving his marching orders.

Substitute goalkeeper, Cameron Dawson was promptly sent on to defend Swift's free kick from the edge of the box. Swift's shot was blocked, with Adam's follow-up well saved by the newly-introduced Dawson.

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Andrija Novakovich got on the pitch for the final few minutes, as Reading looked to make their numerical advantage count in the closing moments.

The Owls had their backs to the wall as the Royals threw men forward to try and snatch a late leveller in RG2, backed by a vocal home support. Seven minutes were added at the end of the 90 for the Royals to try and make amends.

A flurry of stoppage-time corners were defended by every remaining Wednesday player back, as they looked to preserve their slender lead. However, a counter-attack in the dying moments saw Joao through on goal, burying a strike into the bottom corner to ensure all three points headed back to South Yorkshire on the night.

Full time | Reading 1-3 Sheffield Wednesday

Reading: Virgínia, Yiadom, Miazga, Moore (c), Richards, Rinomhota, Swift (Novakovich 85), Barrett (Olise 65), Barrow, Méïté, Loader (Adam 65).
Subs: Walker, Morrison, Baldock, McIntyre.
Goals: Méïté 54
Yellow:

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Palmer, Lee (Joao 78), Börner, Lees (c), Hutchinson, Bannan, Odubajo, Reach, Harris (Forestieri 78), Fletcher (Dawson 82).
Subs: Fox, Rhodes, Pelupessy, Nuhiu. 
Goals: Harris 30, Hutchinson 56, Joao 90+7
Yellow: Fletcher, Reach, Hutchinson
Red: Westwood

Attendance: 16,319 (2,149 away)
Referee: Mr J Linington


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