Reading 3-0 Cardiff – Post Match Analysis
Reading put in an impressive performance as they brushed aside a poor Cardiff side. Georges Puscas (2) and John Swift netted in a comfortable win, and Meite even had a penalty saved in stoppage time, but how was the game won?
Reading kept their 3-5-2 formation from the midweek League Cup penalty win at Wycombe, whilst Cardiff lined up with their normal 4-3-3.
Reading’s issue going into the game was using possession. Having dominated the ball in the first two games, they hadn’t been using it effectively. The introduction of Ejaria to the starting line up was key to Reading’s win as he excelled in the central midfield role. Furthermore, starting Puscas allowed Reading to stretch the game and hit Cardiff on the break effectively. They allowed Cardiff the ball for long periods, and their lack of creative midfielders was exposed. However, losing Marlon Pack to injury early on was also key to Reading’s success.
Cardiff had started the brighter of the two sides and dominated for the first 20 minutes, with Joe Ralls key to this as he was able to exert his influence on the midfield (as seen below). He was first to many of the second balls, and linked the play well to the full backs and wingers. Alongside him, Marlon Pack added defensive solidity and gave Ralls the license to press further forward. However, key to Reading gaining a foothold in the match was Pack’s injury after 23 minutes. He was replaced by Curtis Nelson who went to full back and Bacuna moved into the midfield.
The impact was almost instant. Where Pack had been covering the midfield, Vaulks was caught out as Reading broke quickly, and a fine solo goal from Puscas gave Reading the lead. The goal was indicative to how Reading were looking to play, as the quick transition on the break exposed Cardiff’s lack of pace at the back and the high positioning of their full backs.
The second goal also highlighted how John Swift was able to influence the game positively from higher up the pitch than in recent games. He was given a free role, and drifted out wide to provide a cross for the lively Puscas. This made him very hard to pick up, and whilst Pack had been covering him well in the opening 20 minutes, the Cardiff midfield struggled to cope after this. The wing backs also offered a wide outlet, whilst the Cardiff centre halves were occupied by Reading’s choice to play two strikers. This created overloads out wide when attacking, coupled with Swift’s willingness to roam wide.
In the second half, Reading were subsequently able to sit back and soak up large amounts of Cardiff pressure which was based around constant long balls. Warnock introduced Paterson and Vassell at half time for Vaulks and Hoilett, switching to a 3-5-2 to match Reading. As a result, Cardiff’s removal of a central midfielder meant that they relied on a barrage of long balls in the second half, which Reading were set up to cope with easily and subsequently overran the midfield. As the map shows below, Cardiff didn’t look to play through midfield, and this played into Reading’s plans.
Cardiff tried to target the wide areas with long balls, but Reading adapted by Miazga moving wider, and was subsequently involved in 20 aerial duels in the match, winning 17 of them. Morrison and Moore were less troubled but still played their part, winning 5/8 and 3/5 respectively. The map below demonstrates how Cardiff tried to target the right side of Reading’s defence, and how well Miazga coped against Bennett who was pushed further forward.
Attackingly, the influence of Swift and Ejaria and their link up was key to Reading’s success. Swift managed to create 7 chances in the game, a massive improvement from previous week. Ejaria was key to the supply line, and linked up with Swift more than any other player on the pitch, completing 15 passes to him in the match. As a result, this meant that Swift could influence the game in the attacking third, and this was shown by him completing 17 passes in the final third, more than any Reading player.
Ejaria moved the ball quickly to Swift throughout the game, and this link up, coupled with Puscas’ willingness to run in behind Cardiff’s defence created a number of openings, and perfectly demonstrated by the two goals scored in the first half. Puscas was also instrumental in linking the play, willing to drop in between Cardiff’s defence and midfield and pick up the ball from there, and his ability to drive on the ball made it extremely hard for the Cardiff backline to cope.
In what was a very impressive Reading performance, the change in system was fundamental to victory. Allowing Cardiff plenty of the ball with no one particularly capable of creating chances, Reading were able to soak up large amounts of pressure before breaking quickly against a slow Cardiff side. The choice to play Ejaria was key, as he was able to move the ball much quicker than Rinomhota had done in previous games. His link up with Swift was excellent, whilst his defensive work shouldn’t be underestimated (4 tackles and 3 interceptions), and this bodes well for Reading in the future. Cardiff on the other hand, were very one dimensional and the lack of a creative midfielder and reliance on direct football was evident today.