Saturday, 17 April 2021

Late penalty miss proves costly

LUCAS JOAO missed a late penalty as Reading were held to a frustrating goalless draw at Preston in the Championship on Sunday.

The in-form striker, who has notched 17 goals so far this season, hit his spot-kick inches wide of the left-hand post after he had been brought down by Joe Rafferty.

Royals boss Veljko Paunovic said the miss was disappointing and frustrating but he would continue to back his top-scorer.

He said: “With Lucas, when he scores and when he misses, we give him support. It happens in football. But it is also true that maybe he contributed to himself and his mood when he took the penalty. Very early in the game he was disappointed because of the way that things were developing on the field.

“We’re disappointed and frustrated but I always use these disappointments to channel it into the next game and next opponent in a positive way. The team played very well in the second half.

“So right now I don’t feel great and this draw feels like a loss because of the way we played, the way we built our performance throughout the course of the game.

“We had our opportunities to score, the penalty being the big one at the end, of course, but we weren’t lucky enough to convert one and take the three points.”

Preston went closest in a hard-fought first half as Emil Riis Jakobsen stabbed the ball towards the goal through a crowded six-yard box but goalkeeper Rafael Cabral was down quickly to block.

Ovie Ejaria forced Preston’s keeper Daniel Iversen to turn his close-range strike around the post as Reading improved in the second half but they struggled to find a breakthrough. Both sides were toothless in attack and their defences were disciplined in an uneventful and even first half that saw chances limited to long-range efforts.

Cabral pushed away Scott Sinclair’s low drive within 40 seconds and Reading’s John Swift tested Iverson with a free-kick when he pushed an audacious effort to safety.

Iversen also tipped Sone Aluko’s powerful hit over the bar as the visitors came out after the break with intent, but they were unable to turn their dominance into clear-cut chances.

The home defence did well to keep Joao quiet, but the Portuguese striker looked set to make it nine goals in as many games when he was wrestled to the ground by Rafferty. But he was left frustrated when he fired the penalty wide.

Alex Neil’s side remain in 10th after their first draw in 10 matches, while Reading extended their unbeaten league run to five matches but stay fifth.

Victory for Reading would have lifted them into fourth and level on points with second-placed Swansea and Watford in third. At least they earned a fifth clean sheet in their past seven league games.

The Royals return to Championship action tonight (Friday) when they host Bournemouth at the Madejski Stadium, kick-off at 8pm.

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