Reading were defeated 3-0 at home against Leeds United on Tuesday evening, as Marcelo Bielsa’s side went to the top of the Sky Bet Championship with their win at Madejski Stadium.
The Royals went in to the game on the back of consecutive victories, but the Whites were too good on the night. Mateusz Klich opened the scoring, before Pablo Hernandez grabbed a brace ahead of the half-time whistle with two well-taken goals.
Manager José Gomes named Ryan East amongst the starting XI – and in doing so, our Academy hit the milestone of 50 graduates to have played first-team football for Reading.
His inclusion, replacing the injured Ovie Ejaria, was one of two changes – the other was Danny Loader, coming in for Garath McCleary.
Later in the game, the tally was extended further as 17-year-old Michael Olise was introduced from the bench for his first inclusion, taking the ever-growing number up to 51.
Neither goalkeeper was truly tested in the opening exchanges. Leeds were circulating the ball well but couldn't find any gaps, while the Royals threatened a few times on the counter but to no avail. Tackles were flying in, too - a late challenge by Tyler Roberts upended John Swift and brought the game's first booking.
Reading's first notable chance came on the ten-minute mark; it was the two full-backs at the heart of it. Andy Yiadom burst infield on a quick counter and fed the ball wide left where Tyler Blackett picked up and pirouetted into space. Yiadom picked up again and drilled low and hard from a tight angle, but Kiko Casilla blocked.
It was the visitors who broke the deadlock with an incisive break. Luke Ayling broke away on the right and cut back - Patrick Bamford stepped over, allowing Klich to tuck inside the near post from 12 yards.
The Royals almost made an instant reply as Yakou Méïté galloped into space down the right and sent a low cross into the six-yard box; Casilla got to it a split-second before Loader.
Instead, Leeds doubled their advantage shortly before the midpoint of the half. An attack was only half-cleared, allowing the ball to be circulated to Hernandez - his bulleted effort struck the base of the post on its way into the back of the net.
It was looking difficult for the Royals to get a proper foothold in the game, with Leeds unflappable in possession and looking a constant threat.
Nevertheless the Royals had two fantastic opportunities to pull one back in quick succession; first Méïté beat his man on the left but had a cross cut out before it could reach Barrow, and then Méïté snatched at a chance of his own as a low cross came in from the right; his effort bobbled through to Casilla.
And so Leeds extended the lead still further with a fine strike before the interval. Bamford collected in a pocket of space outside the area, squared for Hernandez, and the Spaniard lashed in his second in stunning style from 20 yards.
Half-time: Reading 0-3 Leeds United
Méïté was again involved in Reading's first offensive after the break, as his brute force took him past Leeds skipper Liam Cooper on the right. He had two bites of the cherry to try and pick out a teammate but the yellow shirts had swarmed back to snuff out the attack.
Luke Ayling was walking a tightrope after a hefty foul on Mo Barrow had drawn a booking in the first half - early in the second period, a repeat of the same kind of incident went unpunished. Marcelo Bielsa quickly subbed off the full-back before he could get into any further trouble.
The home side had been limited to few opportunities, but almost made things happen with a quick burst from halfway. Lewis Baker was the one to collect possession in the centre circle and burst past challenges, but his left-footed strike was without conviction.
Callum Harriott's introduction just after the hour added fresh impetus. And when Yiadom cut out an attack and launched a counter, he almost finished it superbly with a hanging header from Blackett's deep cross - Casilla's cat-like reactions kept it at bay.
While it wasn't destined for a good result in the immediate term, there were long-term positives to be taken as another Academy graduate got game-time. With 20 minutes remaining, Olise replaced Barrow to become our 51st debutant from our youth system.
The scoreline could have worsened but for a double-let off. A square ball was air-kicked by Bamford, before Hernandez sliced his effort marginally wide as a hat-trick remained elusive.
Then Jack Harrison drifted in off the right and produced a couple of dummies to open space to shoot, forcing Martínez into a smart stop. Hernandez had time to pick his spot on the follow-up but opted for power over precision and shanked high and wide.
Olise's pinpoint diagonal ball for fellow sub Garath McCleary nearly helped Reading to a consolatory goal, as he skipped in and hammered towards the near post, but Casilla punched the swerving shot to safety - no risks.
The Royals pressed until the end, but couldn't salvage anything from their late efforts.
Full-time: Reading 0-3 Leeds United
Reading: Martínez, Yiadom, Blackett, Moore (c), Miazga, Baker, East (Harriott 63), Swift, Barrow (Olise 70), Loader (McCleary 81), Méïté.
Subs: Walker, Gunter, O’Shea, McShane.
Leeds United: Casilla, Ayling (Dallas 56), Cooper (c), Bamford, Alioski, Roberts (Shackleton 70), Jansson, Hernandez, Harrison, Phillips, Klich (Douglas 74).
Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Berardi, Brown, Gotts.
Goal: Klich (14), Hernandez (22, 43).
Yellow: Roberts, Ayling, Douglas.
Attendance: 17,101 (2,071 away).
Referee: Mr G Ward