Veljko Paunovic’s Reading fell to their third straight league defeat this afternoon as Michael O’Neill’s organised and resilient Stoke City side secured a 3-0 victory at the Madejski Stadium.
First-half goals from Tyrese Campbell and Steven Fletcher, and a late second half goal from Jacob Brown condemned the Royals to another league loss, ultimately putting the Berkshire outfit’s top of the table status under threat, with Swansea able to leapfrog them if they win.
Six of the last seven matches between these two sides had ended up as draws but Stoke put sword to that stat with a professional victory at Reading, pushing the Potters into the play-off spots, into sixth place.
Reading looked the team most likely to score in the early advances here, and within five minutes they could have been two to the good.
The lively Alfa Semedo saw two close range headers saved well by Gunn within the space of a few minutes, but the Potters shotstopper’s reflexes proved too good and kept the Royals at bay.
As the first half progressed, Veljko Paunovic’s side continued to look a lot sharper and brighter than the visitors, with the Potters deploying a real defensive shape that saw them hand the Royals the fair share of possession.
However, completely against the flow of the game, the ball fell to Tyrese Campbell in the area in the 22nd minute after a poor defensive header from Tomas Esteves, and he had time and space to sweep it comfortably past Rafael.
Shortly after that first goal for O’Neill’s side, Stoke went 2-0 up in the 35th minute – a poor Rafael clearance saw the ball land to the feet of Tommy Smith who popped a ball over the top to Steven Fletcher, and after some suspect defending from the home side, he found himself with plenty of time to slot the ball past Rafael.
It nearly got better for Stoke City shortly after half-time, as Tyrese Campbell hit the post in the 48th minute.
An excellent tackle from James McClean on Andy Yiadom just inside Reading’s half allowed Campbell in down the left flank, and his curled effort just stuck the right hand post.
The home side continued to enjoy more of the ball and had several half-chances, with George Puscas heading directly into Gunn’s palms, whilst Porto loanee Tomas Esteves struck a shot just wide of the right-hand post.
But, the very impressive Stoke City defensive backline continued to remain strong and sturdy with Harry Souttar standing out for the visitors, keeping the likes of Lucas Joao and substitute Sam Baldock quiet.
More often than not throughout the course of the second half, Stoke setup with 10 players behind the ball and the Royals found it increasingly hard to break down the Potters as the minutes passed.
Reading continued to huff and puff but found no killer edge and the match result got even better for the Potters in extra time as Jacob Brown capitalised on a Lewis Gibson error and knocked it past Rafael to stroke it home with ease to make it 3-0.