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Match Reports

Report | Absorbing encounter ends goalless

Honours even as Royals earn clean sheet against Villa

2 February 2019

Reading earned a clean sheet and a point at home to Aston Villa on Saturday, with a hotly-contested 0-0 draw at Madejski Stadium.

Tommy Elphick hit the crossbar for Villa in the first period, while Nélson Oliveira narrowly cleared the bar for the Royals.

Emi Martínez saved superbly from Tammy Abraham late on for the Royals, while Reading couldn't quite find the breakthrough in a feisty match between two sides with lots to play for this season - for different reasons.

The Royals started with four changes to the line-up at Bolton on Tuesday night - with José Gomes selecting all five January loan signings in the starting XI. Prior to getting underway, the Madejski Stadium crowd stood and observed a miinute's applause in memory of former captain, Johnny Walker, who sadly passed away last week aged 90.

Villa started with a high pressing line against the Royals, forcing the first chance after a couple of minutes. Glenn Whelan swept a cross in from the right, Championship top scorer, Tammy Abraham, controlled away from his marker and shot, with Emi Martínez able to catch comfortably.

The first half started at a high tempo between the teams, but the end-to-end early exchanges yielded little in terms of clear-cut chances. But that changed when Anwar El Ghazi found space on the edge of the Reading box. 

He curled an effort towards the bottom corner, with Martínez at full stretch to save superbly - Abraham had a free header on the follow-up and could only put it wide, in a let-off for Reading.

The Royals broke forward at pace shortly after, however, after a deft flick from Lewis Baker allowed John Swift to break. He threaded through for Tyler Blackett, who hung up a cross just before it went behind the byline. Nélson Oliveira attacked it, but Whelan was able to head behind and clear.

Reading kept up the pressure and managed to recycle well from a corner, with Baker popping a chipped ball in for Oliveira, shooting first time under pressure and narrowly over the bar.

The Royals had the woodwork to thank for keeping the scores level after the half-hour mark, with a Hourihane corner headed off the bar by Tommy Elphick.

Up the other end, Oliveira was fouled on the edge of the Villa box. The position suited a left-footer and Baker stood over the free-kick, putting plenty of curl on his shot but not managing to find the target on this occasion.

Five minutes from the half-time whistle, Reading had a big appeal for a penalty when Ovie Ejaria danced into the area past two Villa players - Hutton brought him down and the referee waved away to the appeals, much to the dismay of the Reading squad.

Gomes and his men were starting to turn the screw as the break approached, with Oliveira showing a striker's instinct to shoot from 20 yards when an effort didn't look on, forcing Lovre Kalinic into a fine save to stop him. 

The last action of the half saw Reading almost take the lead - a Swift free-kick was diverted towards the bottom corner, with Kalinic only parrying into the path of Miazga under pressure from six yards. The centre-back only struck wide, and the whistle went for half time.

Half-time | Reading 0-0 Aston Villa

The visitors started the second half with a penalty claim of their own as El Ghazi went down in the box seemingly unchallenged, the referee spotting the lack of contact and awarding the Villa winger a yellow card.

The game was becoming stretched as both sides opened up in the hope of taking the lead in RG2, and when the ball ricocheted through to Abraham in the box, a piece of superb last-ditch defending from Andy Yiadom saw him throw his body in the way at the crucial moment to block.

The result of this match was anyone's guess as the half progressed, with both teams threatening when on the attack but neither side able to find the breakthrough.

Omar Richards was introduced for Callum Harriott midway through the second period, pressing on in a left-wing role - where he used to play as an Academy player before converting to full-back as a senior pro. Sone Aluko was also brought on in a central role in place of Lewis Baker.

The two subs combined going forward as Richards fed Aluko in space 20 yards out, he took a touch but swiped at his shot and it wasn't troubling Kalinic in the Villa goal.

Play was stopped after Oliveira appeared to clash heads with Whelan in midfield, with the striker needing medical attention and subsequently being swiftly withdrawn.

Both teams became increasingly fractious as time wore on, with the match still on a knife-edge in a fiercely competitive game on Saturday afternoon.

Martínez came to the rescue in the Reading goal with 10 minutes to go, Abraham with a free header that our goalkeeper managed to get a solid hand to from point-blank range, the ball dropped into the area and Liam Moore could hack clear from a vital stop.

Time ticked on towards the 90th minute and both teams were still going hammer and tong for a late winner, in an absorbing encounter at Madejski Stadium. 

Eight minutes were added on as a couple of head injuries delayed proceedings significantly in the second half.

Villa penned the Royals in their own half as stoppage time progressed, looking the more likely to find the winner. Jonathan Kodjia found half a yard outside the Reading box, firing across goal and narrowly wide.

A Swift ball was lofted into the box up the other end with Liam Moore rising to it, Kalinic powered a punch clear and left the referee adding more time for another injury intervention.

Full-time | Reading 0-0 Aston Villa

Reading: Martínez, Yiadom, Moore (c), Miazga, Blackett, Rinomhota, Baker (Aluko 70), Ejaria, Harriott (Richards 67), Swift, Oliveira (Méïté 73).
Subs: Walker, Gunter, McCleary, Barrow.
Goals:
Yellow: Swift, Oliveira, Yiadom

Aston Villa: Kalinic, Taylor, Mings, Elphick, Hutton (c), Whelan (Carroll 74), Hourihane, McGinn (Jedinak 89), El Ghazi, Adomah (Kodjia 74), Abraham.
Subs: Steer, Davis, Elmohamady, Hause.
Goals:
Yellow: El Ghazi, Whelan, Carroll, Hourihane

Attendance: 17,458 (2,135 away)
Referee: Mr G Eltringham


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