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Coventry 3-2 Reading

Reading managed to sextuple their goals against in the last two matches; they got away with it at Ewood Park but were punished at St. Andrews.

Outside of Rafael palming the ball to Godden for Coventry's second, the home side only created one major chance

On the whole, the team have made a good job of protecting Rafael, keeping the opposition to shots from poor areas. They did that again in Birmingham, but the goalkeeper struggled in a way he hadn't up until now.

The first goal is a lovely finish into the far corner. Raf has bodies in front of him, meaning he sees it late. In earlier matches, Moore would certainly have got the block in. It's hard to attribute too much blame to the goalkeeper, except that his split step that makes it hard to get back across to the other corner. The shot was nice, but it wasn't right in the corner. So his slight misstep, coupled with the fact that he's not the tallest, cost him. Thankfully, one of those he can work on, though it's not a shot you're upset has gone in.

Rafael isn't given much help from his defence, who fail to react

His mistakes for the next two goals are more clear cut. Again, the shot for goal #2 was from a distance through bodies. Again, on another day Moore or Semedo block the effort. This time, though, Rafael gets a good hand to it, too good a hand, pushing it straight back into danger for Matt Godden. It's a basic skill to push shots like those wide.

The third was just a horror show. Another long shot. This time, Reading had decided they didn't feel like pressuring the ball, which is an issue to discuss later, but meant that Rafael saw the shot all the way. It might change direction a little, but nothing too dramatic. Rafael got no purchase on the punch (another odd decision) and it was in the back of the net.

Rafael has made decent saves up until now, so as long as we can write this as a once-off (this season, did someone say 'Rhian Brewster'?) then all is forgiven. There's enough to make me worry, though, that Reading's keeper is not perfect for them.

Esteves isn't paying attention to the man behind him, and a header into the space he leaves completely takes him out of the game.

His wasn't the only mistake. Leading up to the corner for the second goal, Tomás Esteves lost track of Maxime Biamou at the back post. The striker somehow conspired to hit the bar from inside the six-yard box. I'm not sure if Esteves thought he was playing the man offside, but it seems as though he doesn't even notice his being there.

It's hard to put the first goal down to a mistake from the outfield players. Rinomhota tracks a run, and Laurent takes up his normal positioning covering the cutback, but the combination leaves Gustavo Hamer unmarked on the edge of the box. Olise has a clear view of the danger unfolding but does nothing about it, Semedo wouldn't normally drop that far, Aluko has at least made a recovery run in the first phase. It's a perfect storm where Coventry exploit space that Reading's system creates.

And that's the case with their next goal too. Reading have long had all the men in their box, and pulling corners to the edge to take advantage is not new but Coventry had done their homework. Their corners went to the back post, or the edge. Both problem areas for The Royals. Dabo is then in an acre of space and draws the save from Rafael. The way Reading defend corners is a hangover from the previous regime (if it ain't broke, don't fix it) but maybe this will lead to a shake-up.

Semedo inexplicable runs too far toward the edge of the pitch, opening space for McCullum

Those are both systemic issues, exacerbated by individual errors. The third goal is two failures, both can only be attributed to players. Obviously, the second being Rafael's inability to stop the shot, but Sam McCullum found himself in so much space to begin with because Semedo just ran past him and opened up the middle. Reading's #30 never seemed to break a sweat trying to put pressure after his initial error, and McCullum could pick his spot (even if that spot was straight at the keeper).

Reading actually create space for Semedo on the edge of the box, but the midfield has apparently never heard of getting over the ball.  One of the issues with having a DM in attacking midfield.

Offensively, Reading were far less clinical than normal. Lucas Joao's poor touch wasted a one-on-one after he stole the ball from the Coventry backline. He somewhat made up for it after he held up a man and fired into the corner from 20 yards. Maybe he just wanted to give The Sky Blues a fighting chance. Reading's hot streak couldn't last forever, but there were some really poor efforts from the edge of the box. Semedo and Aluko both put the ball into orbit in the first half.

Rafael only kicks when one of the strikers begins to press, but Coventry's midfield are sat deep.

Rafael noticeably kept hold of the ball as long as possible before launching long. Presumably trying to draw out Coventry and give more space in central midfield, where it was 3-on-3. The exact tactic that Coventry applied to such devastating effect for their first goal - taking the four Reading players upfield completely out of the game. But Coventry only ever pressed high with two, negating the effect.

Sone spread the play well in the middle third, but failed to make an impact where it counted. Shows that he's probably most comfortable as a deeper CAM (so a CM) linking play like against Watford.

I actually liked Aluko's contribution. He didn't do enough to keep his spot when Meite returns, but he was creating the separation he needs to be instrumental. He needs to improve on his final ball, and having him on free-kicks was pointless, but the guy's barely played football in months and to still be a viable option is testament to him.

I think it may be time to start talking about Paunovic's substitutions. The slightly strange decision to convert McIntyre into a midfield dynamo is odd, though it's hard to argue with shutting up shop going into the final stretch of games. Moore's injury meant that McIntyre finally had a chance in his actual position. Though removing Michael Olise, the side's main creator, when chasing the game is an odd decision. 

Admittedly he hadn't been at his best - he wasn't needed for free-kicks (incorrectly, though I think they were trying to force another edge of the box strike), and defensively he was found wanting on a couple of occasions. But if you're chasing the game, needing a goal, surely the man you cull is the defensive midfielder playing out of position. Allowing Joao to fill his space at #10 and keeping your dream team of Olise/Joao/Puscas/Aluko intact.

This result will probably be used to batter Reading with, but it just doesn't fit into the narrative seen so far this season. This wasn't an offensively barren outfit - we even scored twice! - this was the defence having an off day for the first time this year.


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