CARLOS CURSING TOUGHEST WEEK
Royals add to the Owls’ woes...
AMOROSE Carlos Carvalhal was left hoping he could forget everything about one of the toughest weeks of his career as Sheffield Wednesday lost further ground in the play-off race with a home defeat to Reading.
The Owls have picked up just four points from the last 18 available as the Royals increased the gap between the two to five points, the perfect way to welcome in the weekend.
The visitors landed the first blow as Yann Kermorgant clinically fired home after just 13 minutes, but it wasn’t all one way traffic as a string of fine Ali Al-Habsi stops kept them in front.
Indeed, it seemed his brilliance had no limits, and the stopper was to get the reward his performance deserved when Adrian Popa added a second during stoppage-time.
But for Carvalhal, this further added to a wretched week following defeat to Aston Villa, although a sense of relief is at least coming in the form of the impending international break.
“The week was very hard to me,” said the Portugese boss.
“Probably one of the hardest weeks as a coach in my career because we are missing so many players.
“We had problems before the game with Gary Hooper and Kieran Lee, and a few other players out.
“We are talking about a lot of players who have played often since we arrived at the club and are important in our dynamic.
“But I must respect the players who played against Reading.
“The boys who played did absolutely fantastic. They did very well.
“But my players understand that when we recover players, we are more strong.
“We did everything to win the game. We gave the maximum and we deserved to win.
“My players played with a fantastic attitude and created a lot of chances, even in the first half. We played 99 per cent of the second half.
“We played against a goalkeeper with a big inspiration. It was one of the problems of the game.”
It took just 13 minutes for the Royals to get going through Kermorgant’s tenth goal of the season, cutting in and striking expertly past Keiren Westwood.
But from there the game belonged to Al-Habsi, the Omani first pulling off a smart stop from Jordan Rhodes as Jaap Stam’s men were grateful to lead at half-time.
Rhodes was to also be thwarted after an excellent header, all before some stunning Al-Habsi point-blank saves from Callum McManaman and Steven Fletcher.
But as Westwood pushed up for a corner in search of a stoppage-time equaliser, Reading broke to allow Popa to slot into an empty net, shoring up a valuable three points on the road.
“Ali’s been great for us. His reactions are great and with close-range shots he can move his body quickly to block the ball or catch it,” said Royals boss Stam.
“He’s a great character and has a great personality.
“He has done his bit already this season in his performance.
“But it wasn’t just Ali, everybody worked very hard to get the result.
“It was a tough game and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy,
“It’s a result that gives the players extra motivation and even more self confidence in what they can achieve by doing certain things on the pitch.”
TUSSLE: Wednesday’s Will Buckley in action with Reading’s Jordan Obita and, inset, Yann Kermorgant scores the Royals’ first