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Reading 3-1 Bristol City

What Reading lacked up until the weekend was a statement win. A performance to truly back up the initial form. The Royals produced that against Bristol City.

Although Reading were playing a 4-2-3-1, Meite pushed on to exploit chances on the counter

The first half was cagey, with both sides more concerned about keeping things tight at the back. Rinomhota and Laurent did a stellar job protecting the back four, with Holmes and Richards easily dealing with danger in the wide areas - especially given Bristol's 3-5-2 meant overloads out wide weren't an issue.

Reading struggled to play out against Millwall but had no such issue this time around. Laurent dropped between the centre backs to create the angles seen in the second half at The Den, but playing direct up to Meite or Joao was always an option too. Bypassing the midfield meant that Reading could fairly consistently have good numbers at the offensive end of the pitch as the away side left three back while Reading had Meite, Joao, and whoever managed to arrive from Ejaria and Olise.

The worst performer on the pitch was one J Simpson, from Lancashire. The referee missed two clear red cards for the away side. Taylor Moore launched himself, two-footed into a challenge with Laurent. It was only the Reading player bailing out that protected him from something more serious, and that's exactly why it should have been a red. If a challenge has the capacity to cause serious harm it should be a dismissal irrelevant of the outcome. Then Chris Martin basically stood on the back of Liam Moore's calf. Another yellow followed, another poor decision.

Olise was everywhere, ending the game with six key passes.

One of Reading's best spells came from Moore's lunge, mainly thanks to Michael Olise. His reintroduction to the starting eleven proved to be the right decision, and Reading's set-pieces improved immeasurably. The initial free-kick saw Holmes' header well saved, with the keeper acrobatically tipping the ball over for a corner. The corner was cleared but with the second ball, Olise again found Holmes at the far post. This time the makeshift right-back headed back across goal. Morrison, under no pressure, and with an open goal in front of him, missed the ball, and Joao's run at the back post had just carried him too far.

It's worth noting that it was easily Olise's most productive game. Part of that may be that Tom Holmes offers a legitimate second (or third, though Moore is rarely targeted) option from set-pieces. Esteves doesn't offer the same height, and for a team that looks to score set-piece goals, that's a bit of a problem. Or alternatively, it validates Paunovic's decision to exclude him in the first place but given the run of results while he was sat on the bench that's a hard sell.

The defender's movement to close down Olise allowed Meite to run inside.

Olise was key moments later on the break. A deft touch putting the ball right in Rinomhota's path, whose through ball put Meite clean through. Shame that the winger fluffed his lines on that occasion. No worry, Olise gave him another opportunity. He drew in one of the Bristol centre backs, which created space for Meite's out to in run, and flicked the ball into Meite's path. This time the ball hit the back of the net.

Rafael is favourite to get the ball but seems to get down to the ball slowly. Maybe Joao should track Wells a little better too.

Which was a moment of great relief given that Bristol had actually equalised between Meite's near-identical chances. A free-kick at the other end saw Nahki Wells finish from close range. Moore was outjumped for the initial ball. Morrison couldn't react in time, and the ball deflected into Wells' path. Maybe Rafael could have come for the ball quicker, but it can be difficult to readjust quickly when the ball takes a deflection. 

Reading were consistently in good shooting positions. (infogol has definitely undervalued Meite's goal)

Essentially, Reading perfected the game they played in the opening few weeks of the season. Suffocating the opposition attack, while creating chances from set-pieces and on the break. Bristol didn't have a shot until the hour mark. Wells' goal was only accompanied by a shot straight at Rafael from 25 yards. Meanwhile, Meite had five by himself. Combined, Joao and Meite had 13 shots (on or off target) between them.

Clearly, Meite is an instrumental part of that with his speed and finishing. His part in the first goal is largely ignored but after winning a throw-in on halfway he could have allowed the City defence to reset. Instead, we saw that rarest of beasts, a quick throw. Joao twisted and turned - as he did often throughout the match - to try to find space before laying it off to Ejaria. Cutting inside seemed to be the wrong option, especially with Richards on the overlap, but his deflected shot hit the far corner. All's well that ends well?

To be fair to Ejaria, he was back to completing dribbles for fun and had a couple of decent crosses from the half-space on the left side that Bristol didn't deal with too well. Having an end product is almost a bonus.

It's telling that Meite doesn't 'combine' with anyone, instead allowing himself to be the final part of the chain. That puts a reliance on the left side to create chances for him. It's effectively the idea two successive Reading managers have looked to exploit.

And Meite showed the other part of his game in injury time as he intercepted a pass, ran the length of the pitch, and squared to Joao to score. He even had the capacity to get angry when Joao's lack of movement threatened to cost him his first assist of the year. Reading's fanbase feels doomed to endlessly debate how important he is to the side. He's a misfit in some ways, not being as technically gifted as the other attacking players, but he does score goals - and that's pretty crucial. The issue mainly comes when the left side misfires, but that wasn't an issue Saturday.

His strike partner (are you allowed to call a ST-RW a partnership?), Joao, altered his game to accommodate for Olise's style of play. With Semedo behind him, he was much more about being a finisher. Not so this time, getting hold of the ball deep and bringing others into play. He may have only attempted 17 passes - about normal, but his 94% passing accuracy was a season-high. Likewise, his five dribbles. Olise seems to have a knock-on effect.

For the second game running it's a good result, but one that needs to be followed up on. Sheffield Wednesday may be in a false position, but they've still only won thrice all season and have picked up three points from a possible 12 coming into the game.


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