Bournemouth ran out 4-2 winners after a remarkable comeback and a slew of individual errors led to Reading throwing away a 2-0 lead in a game that mirrored the visitors’ start to the season.
Early pacesetters Reading looked to get their season back on track after three consecutive defeats heading into the international break, and everything seemed to be going to plan when Aluko stroked the visitors into a 2-0 lead. Solanke, Danjuma and Cook had different ideas and finished with aplomb as Reading unravelled in the second half.
Reading started brightly as Semedo danced past Cook on the byline only three minutes into the game. As the midfielder rounded Begovic he was bundled over for a Reading penalty that Joao tucked away inside the left-hand post.
Bournemouth responded with a period of dominance using Danjuma’s skill on the left and a high press to contain Reading, though the visitors looked dangerous on the break with Aluko and Semedo having opportunities against an uncharacteristically shaky Cherries’ defence.
Bournemouth’s first attempt of note came when Brooks found himself in space in the box, only for Rafael to make a comfortable save. Reading were looking defensively sound, and the game appeared to be meandering to half time.
However, Reading’s enigmatic Ejaria had a bit of quality in him on his return from injury. After picking up the ball from a lovely Semedo lay off, he drove across the Bournemouth defence before finding the perfect through ball to allow Aluko to slot past the despairing Begovic.
I wish I could say that it ended there, or that Reading saw the game to completion with a zen-like calm in defence. But alas, a good 45 minutes against a relegated team from the Premier League is only half the job.
Predictably, the second half started as one-way traffic. Mepham had replaced Rico at half time for the hosts, with Kelly moving to left-back – Reading unchanged.
It was Kelly who turned provider on 56 minutes when he found himself unmarked on the left and whipped in a sumptuous ball past the outstretched leg of Moore for Solanke to tap home from. Game on.
Within three minutes, Bournemouth were level. Esteves had done well to contain Danjuma for the first half, but finally the Dutch forward got on the right side of his man to latch on to a delicate vertical ball from Brooks and tuck home past Rafael.
Paunovic brought on Olise and Holmes for Aluko and Esteves, with almost instant effect as Reading’s right-hand side combined well before setting up Joao, who could only fire tamely at Begovic.
As the game reached a bit of a deadlock, it seemed like a moment of magic (or another error) would be needed to unlock a result. Up stepped Lewis Cook to score his first goal for the Cherries – using all the time he had from 25 yards to send the ball into the left corner, via the underside of the crossbar.
Bournemouth were in delirium, Reading in shellshock. In truth, this wasn’t the goal that had cost them a nailed-on win at half time – but when you concede two avoidable goals, you leave yourself with no margin for error when the opposition provide a bit of quality.
Reading started to pour forward in search of a barely-deserved equaliser, and when Joao connected with an Olise corner they thought they had it, only for Begovic to have clawed the ball off the line and away.
Reading were just starting to look dangerous when a Rafael disasterclass wrapped up the points for Bournemouth.
The ‘keeper received the ball just outside of his area and decided to lift the ball past the onrushing Solanke – only to lift it straight at him. After a brief wrestling match for the ball, Solanke emerged victorious and fired past the two remaining helpless Reading defenders.
Olise forced another save from Begovic before the end of the game, but in truth this game had been long since lost. For Bournemouth, a further vindication of the move to the 4-3-3; for Reading another game where avoidable goals will be lamented with more points dropped and the slide down the table beginning in earnest.
Bournemouth play host to Forest on Tuesday night, looking to maintain their place in the automatic promotion places. Reading travel to Millwall on Wednesday as they look to halt this run of form.