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📰 Magic moment for Méïté takes Bluebirds to a replay

Report from cup tie at Madejski Stadium

25 January 2020

A lump-in-the-throat moment all watching was the one which forced a replay from visiting Cardiff, as the Royals and the Bluebirds drew 1-1 at Madejski Stadium.

Reading trailed early to a Callum Paterson goal in the Fourth Round of the Emirates FA Cup – but Méïté’s quick response – which he dedicated to his late father – ensured that Reading would be in the hat for the next round.

It was far from plain sailing though as Tom McIntyre was sent for an early bath after earning bookings either side of the break. The ten men of Reading were brave and battling for the final ten minutes of the game and held out for a draw.

It was all change for the Royals’ starting XI – an entirely different starting side to the one which faced Nottingham Forest at the City Ground in midweek. But that still boasted experience, including captain for the afternoon Matt Miazga, Charlie Adam and Garath McCleary in midfield, and Méïté returning to lead the line.

The bench, meanwhile, was the second youngest in the club’s history since the change to seven subs. At an average age of 19 years and 357 days, it was an all-Academy graduate seven, including a couple of potential debutants in the form of Ben House and Coniah Boyce-Clarke.

A slightly more senior Cardiff side included former Reading midfielder Leandro Bacuna – who was fortunate to escape the referee’s notebook early on after arriving high and late on Charlie Adam in the centre circle.

Méïté was first to register an effort as he squirmed through the defence on the right byline and shot low – the angle favoured goalkeeper Alex Smithies, who collected low.

The deadlock lasted less than five minutes. A deep cross from the left was met by Paterson, who nodded back across goal and in.

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But the Royals were back on terms just three minutes later – and a poignant moment it was. It was McCleary with the driving run, Adam’s delivery, a touch with the head to control by Méïté before slamming in at the near post. Clearly an emotional moment for the Royals forward, who took off his shirt to reveal a message for his late father: Je t’aime, papa.

Sam Walker was worked between the sticks when a ball cleared from a crowded Reading box, allowing Will Vaulks to fire through the masses of bodies; the stopper got down well to it to palm away.

Méïté could have had a second for Reading when defender McIntyre took the invitation to charge downfield as things opened up in front of him, and squared for the Ivorian. His touch was a tad heavy, allowing Smithies to come off his line to block with his legs.

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Not 60 seconds had passed before Cardiff passed up a great opportunity of their own. Gavin Whyte received in the Reading half and used dummy runs of his teammates to work space to shoot – a real fizzer, and not far off target.

It continued to be tightly contested and the smallest of margins prevented Reading from going ahead. Sone Aluko scampered past Bluebirds captain Sol Bamba and cracked away a fierce left-footer from the edge of the area. Saved by Smithies and followed in by Méïté – slammed in but offside.

Half-time: Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

The second period began more tentatively than the first; it took some time before the first shot was registered. Andy Rinomhota was the one to get the shot away on the volley, but it was blocked in the area and Miazga was deemed offside as he looked for scraps.

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And while Walker was remaining largely untested between the posts for Reading, it was Cardiff who were seeing most of the ball. An overload on the Bluebirds left almost resulted in an opening, but for a timely intervention by Teddy Howe.

Just after the hour, a sad sight to see as Miazga had to leave the field on a stretcher. Landing awkwardly from an aerial battle, his teammates immediately alerted the official to the situation and he was quickly receiving medical attention. Gabriel Osho was the one to replace him.

Cardiff centre-half Bamba was close to a spectacular second for the visiting side; up for a set-piece, Whyte flashed in a low delivery, which the defender met with a flick of the heel - just past the far post.

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McCleary's tenacity turned the ball over outside the Cardiff box, and when Howe kept a hacked clearance alive, McCleary picked up again and fired across goal with his left boot - saved by Smithies. Soon after, Loader was found in the middle with a looping cross but volleyed over.

That was to be Loader's last action, as he made way for another Reading debut: House joining the fray to become the 57th player from our Academy to play a first-team fixture.

It was destined to be a testing final ten minutes as the Royals went down to ten - McIntyre stretched into a challenge but was deemed to have committed a second bookable offence. On came Andre Burley to plug the gap in the centre of defence.

It was digging-in time. And in truth Cardiff should have won it when a ball was squared for Bamba, who inexplicably turned the ball wide from underneath the crossbar.

Reading's fighting spirit was there again for all to see; hanging on in there to see off the waves of attack. We'll head to the Cardiff City Stadium for a replay.

Full-time: Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

Reading: Walker, Howe, Richards, McIntyre, Miazga (c) (Osho 66), Adam, Rinomhota, McCleary, Aluko, Loader (House 74 (Burley 83)), Méïté.
Unused subs: Boyce-Clarke, East, Medford-Smith, Dorsett.
Goal: Méïté (8).
Yellow: Méïté, McIntyre, Howe.
Red: McIntyre.

Cardiff City: Smithies, Bennett, Flint, Vaulks, Bacuna, Ralls (Pack 30), Glatzel, Murphy (Hoilett 78), Paterson, Whyte, Bamba (c).
Unused subs: Etheridge, Morrison, Nelson, Richards, Sang.
Goal: Paterson (5).

Attendance: 12,798 (2,270 away).

Referee: Mr M Edwards


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