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Watford 2-0 Reading

 An expected defeat, but one that leaves The Royals in a precipitous position in the play-off race.

Size of event = xG. Sarr's goals totalled 0.11xG according to infogol.

When the other team has an asset worth £40m then it's unsurprising that they provide moments of real quality. Ismaila Sarr was involved in all of Watford's best moves, including the two goals. Reading's defence has been predicated on forcing shots from bad angles - and you could argue they did that even despite their mistakes, but they didn't account for the Watford winger's finishing.

Gibson needs to take out the passing lane to Sarr as he goes across, and at least force the pass down the line. Ovie needed to track back, and Laurent failing to track Sarr is a serious failing.

Goal one is a great example. The left side breaks down defensively - Ovie fails to track Zinckernagel down the right, which creates a knock-on effect with Gibson coming across (but in effect taking himself out of play by not pressing enough, and not even taking out the passing lane to Sarr). Laurent should spot the danger and take Sarr himself, but he's late to notice the free man. Still, at this point, Sarr cuts onto his left - his weaker foot - and is still the best part of eighteen yards out. No matter, he bends the ball into the far post.

You don't expect Championship strikers to score from there, but Moore has stood off him a long way

Likewise, goal two is another shot from an angle that The Royals would normally be quite happy to concede. Gibson, again, plays his part as he's caught in possession in the middle of the pitch. Zinckernagel picks up the ball and again plays to Sarr. This time the winger is basically against the edge of the box, running toward the byline and closing his angle with every step. Moore is clearly more worried about the cross, but that also gives Rafael a clear view of the shot - but there's no blame on him for not keeping out the absolute thunderbolt Sarr unleashes.

Do either of those goals happen with Omar Richards? It's hard to say - you would be surprised if he turned over the ball like that, but to put the blame squarely on Gibson is harsh. The first goal was a collective failure; the second, mainly individual brilliance. Liam Moore probably could have been more proactive with both, but his tendency to want to block shots is par for the course. 

Gibson allowed Sarr to get the wrong side of him but did seem to understand the situation

Sarr was denied a hat-trick only by the linesman. Yids lost the ball against the touchline, and Watford worked Masina into a crossing position - one that Rino probably should have done more to cover off. Gibson at the back post was certain of the offside, but it was a touch worrying the gap that opened between himself and Sarr. Had he timed the run better, he surely would have scored under little pressure from the left back. 

But, on the whole, outside of those horror two minutes, the defence actually played pretty well. Liam Moore made a few excellent tackles in the centre circle to stop moves from developing into anything else. Holmes looked solid, and the speed of his passing is a real asset; He shifts the ball quicker than Morrison is able to. Gibson looked better once he found his sea legs, but Watford were just ticking along by that point. And Yids set up a few dangerous attacks with his dribbling - the way he managed to slot between two Watford players in the second half was unbelievable.

Reading had a clear plan to protect entries into the middle third, before largely looking to be compact in their own half

Pauno set the rest of the team up to protect the middle third and make it difficult for Watford to play out of defence. The attacking quartet largely didn't press outside of that zone, instead, they relied on wayward passing when Watford defenders were in possession or looking to tackle quickly when the ball was moved forward. Olise picked up Hughes, the screen took the other two central midfielders, and the wide men looked to cover the full backs. 

And Reading were impressive in possession. Olise at times showed why he's too good for this club (and in some ways this division given the opposition) as he glided past players like they weren't there. Ovie, too, joined in. He was fouled six times, and on a couple of occasions showed the directness that people criticise his game for lacking. Toward the end of the first he danced past Hughes, cut past Sierralta, and then had his shot (that he had probably dragged wide, admittedly) blocked.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the game was just how poor Reading's deliveries were from those free-kicks they managed to win. They had two from almost identical positions on the left, where they passed into the centre circle and then played into the box. Once left-footed, once right; neither worked. And without Swift, they don't offer the same sort of threat from attacking free-kick situations - highlighted by Olise tame shot from the best part of thirty yards.

It feels in some ways that Meite's game has been stripped back to basics. In each of the last two games he's completed three dribbles (he'd only done that once before this season), largely by knocking it past the opponent and beating them for pace. The only issue is that he still needs improvement on his right foot. He missed the target from a dangerous position at the end of the first half and vastly overhit a couple of crosses. 

The one he got right was a pass inside to Puscas, but the deflection off the defender made it bounce a little and turned it into a harder chance. I think that he held onto that ball for a fraction too long, which meant that the Watford defender had a chance to make the block, and meant that Puscas ended up closer to the near post than I imagine he would have liked to be. Either way, it's still a chance that you would like to see him take.

Reading had opportunities to get back into the game, but it's hard to believe that Watford weren't playing within themselves. With results going against Reading the play-offs now seem like a hard task - but it'll only take one poor result from Bournemouth and Barnsley to reignite the belief. For any of that to matter, they must first see off Cardiff.


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