The transfer deadline — and all the drama that it brings — has passed. So it is back to football on the pitch. New man Tyrone Mings slotted right into the starting 11 with James Chester making way. The fact that Chester didn’t even make the bench shows just how many issues he was playing through the last few weeks. Hopefully he can take the necessary time to recover. Alan Hutton took the armband for the day in the new look backline.
Fellow deadline day newcomer Tom Carroll made the bench as well.
Tammy Abraham had his first attempt within the opening two minutes — but it was right at the Reading keeper. Villa grew from the opening attempt. On the wings Adomah and El Ghazi looked dangerous and committed.
El Ghazi cut inside off the left to create his first chance of the day. The winger moved past two defenders and fired a shot — Emiliano Martínez did well to block the shot low and to his left. Tammy Abraham got to the rebound but headed it wide. In the form he is in — it was a surprise not to see the ball in the back of the net.
The opening 20 minutes — it was great to see Aston Villa playing with a game plan. They kept the Reading back line honest with a few balls over the top — while building up attacks through wide areas. They pounced on Reading players in their own end and regained possession — and it was just McGinn doing it either. But — as pleasing as it was to watch — the scoreboard remained at 0-0.
Reading grew into the game and slowed down the momentum Villa had built. They were helped by a number of free kicks (read: dumb fouls by Villa) — none of them challenged Kalinic — but served to break up the match a bit.
But it was a Villa set piece the rattled the woodwork half an hour into the match. A Hourihane deliver found Elphick’s head — but the defender couldn’t put it below the cross bar — so it deflected off harmlessly.
Kalinic made his first save of the match just past the forty minute mark. Oliveria turn and took a quick shot just outside of the box. The Croatian keeper had a good view of it and did well to parry it wide.
Alan Hutton was lucky not to give away a penalty when he got WAY to close to the back of a Reading player in the box and looked like he made contact.
On the edge of halftime it was Kalinic once again coming up with a big save. The keeper did well to slide to the far post with a cross found and attacker. The first time shot was saved and the whistle blew — ending an uneven half.
The second half got off to a poor start with El Ghazi picking up a yellow card for diving. He may have been fouled (I doubt it) — but he delayed going to ground for a beat — then fell over. Fair card.
He was the only early entry into the book — Glenn Whelan picked up a yellow not even a minute later. That too was deserved.
The Yellow card half — continued when seven minutes into the half — the first Reading player — John Swift — picked one up after preventing McGinn from continuing a really nice run down the middle. He also deserved it — though he may have a modest proposal in disagreement. And yes — I just shoehorned that reference in there. I apologize for nothing.
But wait — there’s more! Oliveira picked up a yellow card for his own dive in front of Alan Hutton. Four yellow cards in less than ten minutes.
Tammy Abraham nearly broke the deadlock but he couldn’t find the ball between his feet when he moved by a couple of defender. In the end — he never even got a shot off.
A fifth yellow card was shown to Yiadom. No idea what it was for. But the Reading player offered no argument.
Villa continued to push down the wings but neither El Ghazi nor Adomah were able to create and clear chances. Frustrating to see the poor form of both of them because the structure of the attack depends on them.
John McGinn came very close to forcing the referee to show a red card. Swift took out the energetic midfield while he was making a run at goal. It was one of those challenges that if he wasn’t on a yellow — he would have been after that tackle. But the ref decided to keep it 11 on 11.
The final 20 minutes needed a spark. Dean Smith tried to do just that after a lengthy injury delay as Mings gave Oliveira a blood nose and/or face. He was taken off as a result. Adomah came off, for Jonathan Kodjia. And Tom Carroll made his debut — on for Glenn Whelan. The subs were followed by another injury delay — and the realization that with 15 mins to go neither team had a shot on target in the second half.
With ten minutes left the Reading keeper made the save of the day. An El Ghazi cross found Tammy at the penalty spot — a strong header was destined for the back of the night — but for a strong hand of the keeper. If the header was a foot to either side — no chance is it saved. But Tammy did very well to get it on goal at all — but the keeper did better to keep his clean sheet alive.
Mile Jedinak replaced a cramping McGinn as the clock approached 90 — and everyone started to think about leaving. But then 8 (EIGHT) minutes were added. But it didn’t matter — neither side was able to breakthrough.
The first 20 minutes was good football. The rest was not. Villa are a team depending on the wings to create attacks. And they aren’t. Tammy could have had a pair of goals on a different day. Reading could have easy found one through a penalty. Reading also could have been a man down. But neither side was good enough to win — and Villa tie yet again — the 13th of the campaign.