Reading were edged to a narrow 2-1 defeat in a friendly against Spanish giants, Sevilla on Saturday night.
Andrija Novakovich had given the Royals the lead early in the second half, before a Nolito penalty levelled terms midway through the second period. Lara would give the hosts a late victory on the night, slotting into the bottom corner four minutes from time.
Once again, two Reading teams took to the pitch in San Jose de la Rinconada on Saturday night as they built their way back to full match fitness.
In the line-up for the five-time Europa League winners was former Royal, Daniel Carrico, alongside former Fulham loanee Sergio Rico, and former Newcastle midfielder, Luuk de Jong – as well as a host of international footballers in their squad, all under the guidance of former Spain boss, Julen Lopetegui.
The Royals could maybe have been forgiven for slight pre-match nerves, as shown by Tom McIntyre’s loose attempted backpass early on that was pounced upon by De Jong – with a goal prevented by a flying clearance by Liam Moore off the line.
Mo Barrow looked lively all half on the left flank, getting past Sebastian Corchia on multiple occasions. He did so early on as he played low into the box for Michael Olise, who couldn’t quite bundle in from close range.
Tyler Blackett also found joy on the left, with his low ball narrowly beyond the chasing Yakou Méïté from six yards out.
Olise enjoyed his time on the ball in the first half, picking out the sprinting Méïté on the right-hand side. The Ivorian burst forward and cut back towards Barrow, who could only put his effort over the bar.
After a nasty-looking tackle on Michael Olise midway through the first half, Royals assistant manager, Jorge Mendonca’s protestations seemingly appeared too much for the referee, who promptly sent the coach to the stands.
Reading more than held their own throughout the first half against Champions League quality opposition, offering them little space to operate and exert their influence.
Sam Walker was called into action later on in the half, however. He reacted instinctively to a close-range drive by Munas Dabbur, as well as a low stop shortly afterwards that kept the scores level.
It was a worthy showing from José Gomes’ men, who swapped sides at the interval goalless.
Half time | Sevilla 0-0 Reading
A much younger Reading side started off in the second half, and they withstood plenty of early pressure from an experienced Sevilla outfit, who also exchanged players at the break.
A breakthrough for the Royals almost came eight minutes into the second half. Tyler Frost was cynically brought down on the edge of the Sevilla box. Jordan Holsgrove stood over the free-kick, bending around the wall and towards the top corner – thwarted at the last by a flying save from Sergio Rico.
But a matter of minutes later, Reading had the lead. Holsgrove whipped an enticing corner towards the far post and a predatory header from Andrija Novakovich was bundled past Rico, and the Royals were in front.
In the Reading goal, 17-year-old stopper, Jokull Andrésson pulled off two fantastic saves to deny Sevilla in quick succession. First, a low volley from Nolito was parried away by the Icelandic’s foot, before a remarkable close-range reaction save stopped Dabbur from equalising.
That lead wasn’t to last long, unfortunately. A high ball into the box from Sevilla was adjudged to have been handled by Omar Richards in the Reading area, and the referee pointed for a penalty. Nolito powered past Andrésson from the spot – the goalkeeper guessed the right way, but there was too much on it and the hosts were level.
Andrésson would be called into action again shortly afterwards, as he parried a well-hit volley from Escudero over the bar.
Just four minutes from time, Sevilla took the lead. A well-worked move saw Pozo play into the box for Lara, who tucked into the bottom corner and ultimately denied the Royals a result against their esteemed opposition.
Full time | Sevilla 2-1 Reading
Reading first half XI: Walker, Howe, Moore (c), McIntyre, Blackett, Rinomhota, Swift, Olise, Barrow, Méïté, Loader.
Reading second half XI: Andrésson, Watson, Odimayo, Osho, Richards, Trialist, East, Holsgrove, Frost, Baldock, Novakovich.
Goals: Novakovich 57
Sevilla first half XI: Rico, Corchia, Diego Carlos, Carrico, Banega, De Jong (Dabbur 32), Joan Jordán, Escudero, Munir, Vázquez, Ocampos.
Sevilla second half XI: Rico, Amadou, Nolito, Vidal, Kounde, Wobber (Lara 73), Pozo, Reguilon, Mena (Fernando 73), Juampe, Dabbur (Gnagnon 73).
Goals: Nolito 66 (P), Lara 86