West Bromwich Albion made it three wins in a row and created a six-point gap at the top of the Championship with a 2-1 win over Reading at the Madejski Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Goals from Matheus Pereira and Kyle Bartley were enough for the Baggies to keep on track for their automatic promotion push.
Slaven Bilic stuck with the same side that defeated Millwall 2-0 last Sunday.
The Baggies yet again made a positive start with good tempo and quick passing and were unfortunate not to be in front as Filip Krovinovic’s effort on goal was clipped on to the bar by the Reading goalkeeper Rafael Cabral.
All of that went out the window though in the opening ten minutes as Albion gifted The Royals a penalty.
A looping corner was handled in the box by Bartley which gave Reading the chance to make a perfect start.
George Puscas stepped up and rolled the ball into the middle of the goal past Sam Johnstone who dived to the right-hand side.
15 minutes later, Albion responded perfectly. Callum Robinson drove down the left-hand side and fizzed a low cross over which was met by Pereira. Cabral parried the ball away smartly, but Pereira was on hand on the rebound to get the Baggies back in the game.
Reading goalkeeper Cabral was kept busy after that, keeping out efforts from Jake Livermore and Krovinovic, denying the latter once more early on in the second half.
Robinson then crashed the crossbar with a right-footed snapshot from the edge of the penalty area and the resulting corner ended up with Bartley giving the Baggies the lead.
Livermore then blazed over on the counter-attack as Albion searched for a third goal.
Reading came close a couple of times late on as Yakou Meite curled narrowly wide from the edge of the box, before finding the back of the net with a header but was ruled out for offside.
Albion managed to see the remainder of the game out and grab their third straight win.
Here’s how we rated the WBA players in the 2-1 win:
Sam Johnstone - 6
Guessed the wrong way on the penalty which is always a lottery. Was bailed out late on in the second half by the offside flag as he wasn’t quick enough to stop Meite heading in. Big let off.
Dara O'Shea - 8
O’Shea again was so comfortable in the right-back position. So composed throughout the game and held the defensive line well. Got caught out a couple times lacking pace on some Reading counter attacks in the second half but he battled back well.
Semi Ajayi - 7
Again, Ajayi held the line well and was the core to the solidness of Albion’s defence. Was an important figure towards the end of the game when Reading were pumping balls forward.
Kyle Bartley - 7
Made a stupid error to give the penalty away but made up for it by looping a header in for the winning goal. Was solid when mopping things up and helped Albion see the game out for the three points.
Conor Townsend - 8
Was sensational. Did the basics so well holding a great defensive line as well as getting up the other side of the pitch to deliver some dangerous crosses. Defensive game has really improved and that has been a big part of Albion’s recent success.
Jake Livermore - 8
Yet again, the midfielder put in a captain’s performance stepping up to the plate in an important game. Gave the Reading players difficulty with his constant press and physical challenges. Flashed over the bar from Robinson’s cross on the counter shortly after Albion got in front.
Romaine Sawyers - 7.5
Sawyers didn’t get off to the best of starts in the game and was the culprit of losing the ball a few times, giving away some cheap free kicks. In the second half, as the game opened up, Sawyers improved. His neat passes and his increased tempo gave Albion more dominance in midfield.
Matheus Pereira - 8
The return of Pereira for the last couple of games has been a breath of fresh air. His quality on the ball is first class as he once again picked out his team mates with some stunning balls. Latched on to the rebound after his original effort was saved to get the Baggies back in to the game. Tired towards the end but that was expected given the effort he gave throughout.
Filip Krovinovic - 8
Krovinovic was simply outstanding. Yet again he linked up so well with Pereira and Robinson and tested the goalkeeper on multiple occasions. Sent a delightful cross over for the winning goal.
Callum Robinson - 7
Robinson again was a major threat on the left side and whipped over some brilliant crosses. Sent the ball over for the equaliser where Pereira finished and was unfortunate to not get another assist as Livermore sent over the bar from his squared pass. Unlucky to hit the bar just before Albion’s second goal as he still awaits his first Baggies goal.
Hal Robson-Kanu - 7
Robson-Kanu again put in a solid shift against his former club. Showed great desire to win the ball from the scrappy corner that ultimately grabbed Albion the winning goal. Missed a couple of chances in the game, most notably heading over from Townsend’s delivery in the first half.
Matt Phillips - 6 (subbed on 69')
Came on for the final twenty minutes and saw a long range effort blocked. Didn’t get too much of the ball though to stamp his authority on the game.
Kamil Grosicki - 6 (subbed on 72')
Made a couple of good runs and had a shot blocked on the counter as Albion looked to see out time.
Charlie Austin - N/A (subbed on 86')
Didn’t have time to impact the game.