Derby County suffered defeat in their opening match of the 2020/21 Championship season, with Reading defeating Phillip Cocu’s side by two goals to nil at Pride Park.
Cocu will have been urging his side to improve after producing a lacklustre performance against Barrow in the Carabao Cup last week.
The Rams progressed to the second round of the competition after beating the League Two newcomers in a penalty shootout, but there was still work to be done heading into the start of the league campaign.
Playing without the likes of Martyn Waghorn and Tom Lawrence, Derby failed to create any real clear-cut chances, as two goals for the visitors right before half-time punished them.
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Lucas Joao escaped his marker from a corner and flicked in an effort at the front-post, to put the Royals into a 1-0 lead.
Joao proved to be a nuisance for the Royals’ second goal, too. A long punt up-field sent Joao running in-behind Mike te Wierik, before holding the ball up and playing in Ovie Ejaria, who slotted in on the overlap.
Those goals proved to be crucial as Derby failed to get themselves back in the game, as they ultimately fell to their first defeat of the season.
The weekend saw te Wierik make his first league appearance for Derby after arriving from FC Groningen in the summer, but the defender endured a frustrating afternoon at Pride Park.
Joao undoubtedly posed Reading’s biggest threat throughout the 90 minutes, and te Wierik’s job was to silence Joao and keep the powerful striker quiet.
Joao’s aerial threat and physical prowess was key for Reading, though, with te Wierik winning 10 of his 19 duels on Saturday afternoon, as well as winning two of five of those in the air.
Te Wierik did show real pace and defensive awareness to keep up with Joao and hold up the attack for a short while for the visitors’ second goal.
Subsequently, though, he carelessly allowed Ejaria to be played in on the overlap and slot the ball into the bottom corner, which ultimately put the game out of the Rams’ sight before half-time.
Derby look to play the ball out from the back on every opportunity under Cocu’s tutelage, and this is something that te Wierik has clearly been brought in to help them do.
The Dutchman is evidently comfortable with the ball at his feet, accruing a pass accuracy rate of 94% over the course of the 97 minutes he played.
The defender also made three interceptions and cleared the ball six times, but ultimately, Joao’s attacking presence proved to be key for Reading as Veljko Paunović secured his first three points as Royals boss.
Of course, it wasn’t only te Wierik’s priority to keep Joao under wraps, and as a defensive unit as a whole, they need to defend much better when coming up against bigger threats as the season progresses.