Reading 3-1 Derby: Royals take their first league victory in five games to stay in the top six and reignite their play-off push thanks to goals from Michael Olise, George Puscas and Lucas Joao
- Reading took the lead on the stroke of half-time with a superb Michael Olise goal
- They doubled their advantage after 57 minutes when George Puscas scored
- Derby made the hosts nervy when Tom Lawrence scored with ten minutes left
- But those nerves were quickly expelled when Lucas Joao added a third goal
- Wayne Rooney’s Derby sit 19th place eight points clear of the bottom three
Teams imploding from play-off pressure is nothing new, but Reading showed they are more than capable to avoid joining such a list.
A sublime Michael Olise strike seconds before half-time set up the blueprint, before George Puscas and a banished Lucas Joao were also on target to halt a four-game winless streak.
How badly this win was needed if the Royals are to stay in the hunt for a place in the Premier League.
Michael Olise hit a stunning strike to score Reading’s first goal in a vital victory for the Royals
The victory keeps Reading one-point clear of Bournemouth who sit just outside the playoffs
George Puscas adjusted well on the rebound to put the ball over David Marshall to make it 2-0
Derby defender Andre Wisdom is challenged by Reading’s second scorer Puscas for the ball
Veljko Paunovic showed his ruthless side by benching top scorer Joao after a horror miss against Barnsley on Friday.
The home side had the lion share of possession but little to show for it.
Aside from a couple of punts forward into the physical Yakou Meite, Derby grew in confidence as the Royals’ four-game winless run began to make sense.
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
READING (4-4-2): Rafael 7.5; Laurent 6, Moore 6, Holmes 6, Richards 6 (Gibson 67, 6); Olise 7 (Semedo 81), Ejaria 6.5 (Esteves 89), Rinomhota 6.5, Yiadom 6; Meite 7 (Aluko 89), Puscas 6 (Joao 81).
Subs not used: Southwood, Dorsett, Tetek, Semedo, Baldock.
Scorers: Olise, Puscas, Joao.
Booked: Moore, Laurent.
Manager: Veljko Paunovic 6.5.
Man of the match: Rafael.
DERBY (3-4-2-1): Marshall 5.5; Wisdom 6, Mengi 6, Forsyth 6; Byrne 6 (McDonald 35, 6), Bird 6, Shinnie 6, Lawrence 6.5; Sibley 5.5 (Jozwiak 62, 6), Knight 5.5 (Stretton 62, 6, Roberts 81); Kazim-Richards 6.5.
Subs not used: Roos, Roberts, Buchanan, Bateman, Baningime, Watson.
Manager: Wayne Rooney 6.
Referee: Jonathan Moss 5.
Tom Lawrence had a shot deflected wide and Nathan Byrne was forced off after a nasty clash of heads with Meite — a stretcher was brought but thankfully not used — before Colin Kazim-Richards should’ve scored on 20 minutes.
He brushed off centre-back pairing Liam Moore and Tom Holmes to pull off a diving header and hit the left post.
Then Rafael pulled off a crucial double save — first from Tom Lawrence’s close range rebound before Kazim-Richards had a second bite at goal, only for his curling effort to be again denied by the Brazilian.
Such opportunities can be the fine line between safety and a relegation dogfight. This time, they were duly punished.
No shots had been registered by the Royals before Olise pulled off an imperious left-footed curler into the top left corner seconds before half-time.
One touch and a pinpoint finish from outside the area — it had come from nowhere.
Wayne Rooney’s men never really covered from this as Derby heads dropped towards the tunnel.
Zero shots on target soon became two strikes, two goals as Puskas hooked the ball past goalkeeper David Marshall after Meite’s strike was parried to his feet.
At the other end, Rafael was in inspired form.
Lawrence had the ball snuffed out from his feet on 65 minutes, and five minutes later the keeper pulled off another terrific save to deny a powerful Max Bird strike.
Lawrence’s shot from outside the area on 79 minutes though was not to be denied but Joao came on minutes later with a point to prove to score with his first touch and eliminate any Derby hopes.
Tom Lawrence scored after 79 minutes to give Reading something to think about
Hopes of an equaliser quickly diminished when Lucas Joao added a third in the final minutes
It was another disappointing afternoon for Wayne Rooney and Derby who sit 19th in the table