PIAZON POUNCES TO RESCUE WHITES
FULHAM returned to the scene of where their promotion hopes were dashed last season, but this time left the Madejski with heads held high after a backsto-the-wall performance earned them the unlikeliest of points.
A 1-0 defeat for Fulham back in May saw Reading go to the play-off final in their place, and this trip looked like being another unhappy one as centre-back Tomas Kalas was sent off inside a minute.
The visitors held strong but were breached by Liam Kelly’s third goal of the week just after the hour mark.
However, Fulham didn’t give up and Lucas Piazon earned the Whites a point, and manager Slavisa Jokanovic admitted he could have no complaints leaving Reading this time around.
“For us it is a great result in a very complicated situation,” he said. “It is not so easy for us to stay without one player less after half a minute. The team showed great tactical awareness, we defended well and we very well stick all together.
“They (Reading) dominated the ball but this is normal. They didn’t grant us so many opportunities but we were organised and at the end when we play 89 minutes with ten men this is a priceless point for us.
“I had to change many things. we knew there was a long time in front of us with ten men and we try to organise ourselves a bit different and not to give them so much space behind us.
“We stick altogether and this team adapted very well and showed great attitude and great character.”
Fulham lost substitute Tom Cairney in the warm-up when the midfielder aggravated a niggling knee injury, and things went from bad to worse when 31 seconds in Kalas pulled back Modou Barrow on the edge of the box and was sent off.
Reading controlled possession from here on out but couldn’t find a way past David Button, the Fulham goalkeeper doing well to keep a Joseph Mendes header out of his bottom-left corner and then making amends when he denied Kelly oneon-one following a scuffed goal kick.
A dipping Oliver Norwood shot on 38 minutes nearly caught Reading out but Vito Mannone tipped it away.
But normal service resumed shortly after the restart as Button did brilliantly to turn John Swift’s curling shot over the bar moments after the restart.
Reading finally took the lead just after the hour when Mendes held the ball up in the box and laid it off to Kelly who shot low and hard.
But Fulham wouldn’t lie down and their efforts were rewarded with seven minutes left when a poor Joey van den Berg touch was pounced on by Piazon, who beat Paul McShane and calmly slotted home, much to Jaap Stam’s disappointment.
The Reading boss said: “We wanted to build up and take risks, be very aggressive going forward and we succeeded in the very first minute as Mo (Barrow) got the ball and would have been in on goal.
“But then of course the plan becomes a bit different than it would have been against 11 as they sat deep and made it very small at times.
“The second half we got that goal we wanted, but we gave a goal away when a first touch wasn’t good enough, and then it is hard because they take their time in everything to get us out of our rhythm and to take a breather themselves.
“We still went for the second but it wasn’t happening. We are pleased with our intensity but it is frustrating we didn’t get the three points.”
RESCUE ACT: Lucas Piazon enjoys his leveller for ten-man Fulham