Royals fall short in basement battle at Villa Park
27th November 2012
Reading suffered their second defeat in four days at the hands of Aston Villa on Tuesday evening, as the Royals lost to Christian Benteke's header 10 minutes from time.
Royals boss Brian McDermott responded to fans' calls to make defensive changes to the side following the 3-2 defeat to Wigan on Saturday, bringing in Adrian Mariappa and Shaun Cummings for Kaspars Gorkss and Chris Gunter. Villa however had to make an enforced defensive change, with the injured Vlaar departing for Nathan Baker. Just as they did against the Latics three days ago, Reading were on the back foot early on, but salvaged the first chance of the game.
Reading captain Jobi McAnuff drove at the inexperienced Villa backline and his drilled cross across the six-yard box was somehow not turned into the goal by the usually-reliable Adam le Fondre, whose attempted over head kick didn't have the conviction. The towering Sean Morrison scored his first Reading goal in the Wigan encounter on Saturday and almost added a second to his tally from the resulting corner, but his header just went over Brad Guzan's bar.
Reading continued to apply pressure on the Villa defence after getting into the game after a shaky early start, but Paul Lambert's side were improving as the half progressed. Benteke had received rave reviews coming into this game and almost impressed his admirers even more, as Adam Federici was forced into action to deny the Belgium, after Holman's pull back reached the forward 15 yards out. Andreas Weinmann then had a decent chance after Leigertwood lost the ball in midfield, but struck his effort way over the bar.
The home side were gradually getting a stranglehold of the game and almost went ahead through defender Keiran Clark, but his header just went wide of Federici's right-hand post. Weinmann thought he had a claim for a penalty just minutes from half time, but Lee Probert waved any Villa claims away. Replays suggested the decision would have been harsh of the Royals, despite Adrian Mariappa not appearing to get any of the ball. Both sides went in at the break goalless.
The second half started very open, with neither side taking control of the encounter. Mikele Leigertwood almost unlocked the Villan's backline with a dinked pass through, but Le Fondre was beaten to it by Guzan. Brett Holman was the next player to try his luck in a Villa shirt, with his darting effort just going wide of the Royals goal. Roberts had been a nuisance all evening for the young defence and almost opened the scoring, but his shot from distance was blocked away for a corner.
From the resulting set piece, Shorey's ball in gifted Le Fondre with the best chance of the game, but the forward got caught under the ball and it sailed hopelessly over the bar. Roberts then had a half chance as his forced his way into the Villa box, but his stinging shot was saved well by the legs of Brad Guzan.
It was always going to be a match that was going to be decided by one goal as we came into the final ten minutes and it was to be the case, as the hosts took the all-crucial lead. Barry Bannan's corners had proved a thorn in Reading's side all evening and Christian Benteke rose above Sean Morrison to nod home an important goal in terms of the Premier League relegation mix. Replays may have suggested Benteke was fouling Morrison, but the Royals had been warned enough to try and deal with the Villa set piece threat, but didn't learn.
Brian McDermott's side looked deflated and only a Noel Hunt header gave Brad Guzan any trouble in the final ten minutes, as Reading failed to win another crucial relegation encounter, as we approach the seasons half way mark. It was an awful game and neither side really deserved to win, but it once again proves we need to change something. You can't change a 25-man squad within a few games, so despite it being unpopular with some, the honeymoon period with Reading FC may be coming to a sorry end for Brian.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Baker, Stevens, Bannan, Westwood, Holman, Weimann, Agbonlahor, Benteke
Subs: Given, Ireland, El Ahmadi, Albrighton, Delph, Bowery, Lichaj
Reading: Federici, Cummings, Shorey, Mariappa, Morrison, Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff, Robson-Kanu, Roberts, Le Fondre
Subs: Taylor, Harte, Pearce, Gunnarsson, McCleary, Pogrebnyak, Hunt