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Title READING FC’s EFL Cup adventure is over for another season, their young team battling bravely but being beaten by a one-man super-show from England winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He scored both goals, had most of the other near-misses and generally was just too hot for anyone on the Reading side to hold. Both clubs fielded basically their “Cup” teams, and it looked as though Reading might have a chance to end their 81-year, 13-game misery run against the Gunners. But this was defeat number 14, a goal in each half from The Ox making the difference. Arsenal had the best of it for most of the game, but Royals were architects of their own downfall to a degree, the first goal, and several other chances, coming from over-elaborate passing in dangerous areas. The first goal was a direct result of the ball being given away. Ironically the second goal, on 78 minutes, immediately followed Reading’s best effort of the night, sub Yann Kermorgant forcing a brilliant save from Arsenal’s No2 keeper, Emiliano Martinez.
Royals had the first scare of the night when Carl Jenkinson went adventuring upfield from right-back and found himself with a shooting chance. Ali Al-Habsi made the first of several fine saves, pushing the ball in the air. Luckily Jenkinson headed the rebound high over the bar. When Royals got on the move, Callum Harriott threatened to break clear and was only stopped at the expenses of a foul by Gabriel. A neat move down the right ended with Garath McCleary cutting back for Harriott, who took too long to shoot and the chance was gone. At the other end, Lucas Perez was next to threaten, clean through on goal, he chose to pass to Maitland-Niles, but Tennai Watson made a great interception. It looked as though an Arsenal goal was on the cards, and it came on 34 minutes when a sloppy midfield pass was intercepted by Oxlade-Chamberlain who simply ran on at the retreating Tyler Blackett and his shot through the defender's legs beat Al-Habsi. After that Royals had the better of the remaining first half play and Harriott almost nicked a leveller when his deflected shot beat Martinez, but landed on top of the net. Then in the closing seconds of the half, Obita drilled in a shot which pin-balled around the Arsenal area without anyone getting a finishing touch. It was a promising end to what had been a difficult half for Reading.
There was a lively start to the second half with chances at both ends. Blackett came to Reading’s rescue with a block after Oxlade-Chamberlain burst away down the right on the back of a stray pass from Kelly. The Ox was an ever-present danger, and next he had the chance of a 25-yard free kick, which the wall dealt with efficiently. At the other end Royals had their best spell. McCleary ran clear on goal, but decided to pass instead of shooting and Kieran Gibbs prevented the ball reaching Dom Samuel. Kermorgant replaced Harriott and almost swung the game immediately, his header forcing Martinez into a flying save. It gave the Gunners the jitters for the first time and after conceding two quick corners they tried to take out an insurance policy by bringing on star French striker Olivier Giroud up front. And Giroud almost got on the scoresheet immediately, his header from Mohamed Elneny’s free kick producing a wonder-save from Al-Habsi.
Royals had lost their way again, and Al-Habsi came to the rescue again, blocking Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot, then watching gratefully as Iwobi made a mess of the rebound. It was only a temporary reprieve, however, and soon Arsenal - and of course, The Ox - made the game safe with a real mish-mash of a goal. It looked very much as though the ball had gone harmlessly out of play to the right of goal, but Arsenal were allowed to play on by the linesman, and when Giroud played the ball back "blind" into space, Oxlade-Chamberlain met it first time with a low 25-yard crack which flicked off Obita and high out of Al-Habsi’s reach. Royals had the chance of a consolation goal in the last minute. Samuel wriggled free with a route to goal but was brought down by Gabriel. Kermorgant’s low free kick looked goalbound but was kept out by the diving Martinez, and that was that. STAT NOTE: This was the first game this season in which Reading did not have the majority of possession, that being 60-40 in Arsenal's favour. MANAGER'S COMMENTS. Attendance: 59,865 - 5,500 Royals fans.
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------------------------------------- READING FC got back to winning ways at bottom club Rotherham - and could even afford the luxury of a missed penalty as they eased up to eighth in the table. As usual Royals dominated the possession statistics, this time by a massive 74-26percent, but it took until five minutes from the end for them to make the breakthrough. It was skipper Paul McShane who did the business, with a neat piece of skill, controlling the ball with his thigh before volleying it high into the net after keeper Lee Camp had pushed out a fierce shot from Roy Beerens.
It was the culmination of a concerted spell of Reading pressure, during which John Swift rattled the crossbar with a solo effort. Earlier Garath McCleary saw his softish penalty saved by former Nottingham Forest team-mate Camp - and despite their near total domination, Reading still had to rely on a handful brilliant saves by Ali Al-Habsi. Ironically, McShane, returning after injury, had not been in the starting line-up, but he came off the bench after 28 minutes to replace young Liam Kelly, who was making his debut in midfield. MANAGER'S COMMENTS. Attendance: 8,800 - 644 Royals fans.