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Saturday 19 April 2014

Reading turn tables on Man City to lift U21 PL Cup

Martin Kuhl's charges bounce back from 3-2 deficit to win inaugural competition at Madejski Stadium

  • Reading hold aloft the inaugural U21 Premier League trophy. Photo: Reading FC

  • Reading goalscorer Jack Stacey holds off Man City captain Marcos Lopes. Photo: Reading FC

Two goals in three second-half minutes earned Reading a 2-0 success over Manchester City to ensure they lifted the inaugural Under-21 Premier League Cup before their home supporters at the Madejski Stadium with a 4-3 aggregate success.

Despite finding themselves under pressure for long periods of the match against an authoritative City side, Martin Kuhl’s team turned around a 3-2 first-leg deficit thanks to strikes in quick succession by Tariqe Fosu and Jack Stacey.

Kuhl had made two changes to the side who lost in the first leg at Etihad Stadium last week, with Republic of Ireland youth internationals Sean Long and Liam Kelly replacing captain Aaron Kuhl and Fosu, while City manager Patrick Vieira opted to play Jordy Hiwula in place of Sinan Bytyqi.

After Kuhl’s side started the first leg well, racing into a two-goal lead after just 20 minutes, it was City who got off to the better start this time around, dominating a first half peppered with goalscoring chances. Marcos Lopes forced a save from Daniel Lincoln after seven minutes before the impressive Oliver Ntcham narrowly missed with a shot that deflected off Aaron Tshibola and over the bar from their next attack.

Although Reading's Kelly showed glimpses of quality, seeking out through-balls for the pacy and powerful Gozie Ugwu, and Jake Cooper sent a header wide at the far post on the quarter-hour, City's Ntcham and Fofana dovetailed well to take a firm grip of midfield.

The former played in Devante Cole with a deft pass on 26 minutes, which the striker sent a whisker wide with his left foot, and Ntcham might have scored himself had his half-volley not been deflected over.

Much of City’s best work came down the right, where Adam Drury was proving a thorn in Reading’s side. The right-back sent over a teasing cross that Hiwula could only direct wide on 41 minutes, and struck Lincoln’s near upright after buying space for a shot with a clever feint.

By the end of the half City were imperious and twice came close to breaking the deadlock through Lopes, who dragged his shot wide after George Glendon had mopped up an errant pass by Craig Tanner and played the Portuguese in, and Hiwula, who unleashed a thumping effort from range that curled a fraction wide.

City began the second period as they had ended the first with Lopes starting and finishing a move that resulted in his shot from a tight angle sailing into the stands. Ntcham’s thunderbolt shot only just missed its target, while Cole was the next visiting player to be denied when Lincoln smothered his goalbound shot.

If Vieira was thinking he side might pay for their profligacy his concern was justified as Reading's Stacey was put into a scoring position by Kelly five minutes into the second half, only to send his shot just wide. Ugwu broke into the City half following a long clearance, only to delay too long with his pass.

Conscious of the need to to level the score on aggregate, Reading were showing greater attacking purpose, much to the appreciation of the 3,034 crowd at the Madejski Stadium, and the home side were rewarded for their efforts on 71 minutes when second-half substitute Fosu scored with his first contribution after coming on. The forward received the ball on the left, cut inside Cole and duped Lawlor with a low shot inside the goalkeeper's near post.

Suddenly Reading were in the ascendancy and within four minutes had taken the lead, as City ceded possession in their own half and Tanner played in Stacey, who kept his cool to skip around the goalkeeper and roll the ball into an empty net.

City seemed shell-shocked by their sudden change in fortunes but battled gamely to force extra-time, only to find Lincoln alive to Nthcam’s late attempt and Hiwula thwarted by Pierce Sweeney after a forceful run from deep. Unlike the first leg, however, there would be no late strike by City and the Royals held on for a memorable victory.

Reading: Daniel Lincoln, Sean Long (Tariqe Fosu 68), Shane Griffin, Pierce Sweeney (cap), Jake Cooper, Niall Keown, Jack Stacey, Aaron Tshibola, Gozie Ugwu, Liam Kelly, Craig Tanner. Unused subs: Lewis Ward, Sammi Fridjonsson, Shepherd Murombedzi, Harry Cardwell
Booked: Glendon (20)

Man City: Ian Lawlor, Adam Drury (Sinan Bytyqi 75), Greg Leigh, Shay Facey, Jason Denayer, George Glendon, Marcos Lopes, Jordy Hiwula, Oliver Ntcham, Devante Cole. Unused subs: Billy O'Brien, Ellis Plummer, Kean Bryan, Jose Tasende.

Referee: K Friend

Attendance: 3,034

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