REPORT: Reading FC 2-0 Birmingham – Meite and Swift fires Royals into round two

Brilliant strikes from Yakou Meite and John Swift fired Reading into the second round of the Carabao Cup with a routine win over Championship rivals Birmingham.

Meite fired the Royals into an early lead with a powerful shot from the edge of the box before Swift sealed the win with a stunning free-kick with 20 minutes to play.

Birmingham were largely toothless throughout, but Reading’s debutant goalkeeper Sam Walker was called into action to deny Connor Mahoney and Che Adams.

The win is just a fifth in 32 competitive games for the Royals stretching back to December and puts them into Thursday’s second round draw.

Paul Clement made five changes to his side from the weekend defeat at Nottingham Forest, but still named a strong team with Liam Moore brought back in as captain for the first time since he handed in a transfer request.

Walker made his debut in goal while Leandro Bacuna, Swift and Marc McNulty were also all handed starts.

Birmingham, who like Reading have lost their opening two league games of the season, changed all 11 men from the weekend ahead of their Friday night Championship clash against Swansea City.

John Swift put Reading 2-0 up

Reading’s new-look strike pair of McNulty and Sam Baldock looked lively from the off and the latter was the first to try his luck with a shot blocked from just inside the box.

Chances were at a premium for both sides so the quality of the opening goal certainly came out of the blue.

McNulty clipped a perfectly-weighted through ball to Meite, who burst beyond his man and lashed in right-footed from the edge of the box for just his second ever Royals goal.

But the home side’s joy was dashed just before the half hour mark when key winger Mo Barrow was forced off injured after an innocuous fall off the ball.

Gary Gardner then tried his luck to add insult to injury but blazed over before Walker was called into meaningful action for the first time, saving down low to deny Mahoney.

Mahoney tried his luck again soon after, clipping a free-kick towards the top corner but it sailed just wide.

Injuries disrupted the flow for the remainder of the half with both Meite and Bacuna requiring treatment, but they continued as the hosts went in at the break 1-0 up.

And it could have got even better minutes after the restart when Swift picked out Meite on the right. The winger cut inside but his shot deflected just past the post with Lee Camp stranded.

At the other end, Bournemouth loanee Mahoney, who had been Birmingham’s brightest spark, went close again as he drifted in from the left but his shot flashed just wide of Walker’s upright.

The visitors soon carved out an even better chance when a shot flashed across to Viv Solomon-Otabor in the middle, but he headed over the bar.

Incredibly Reading quickly squandered and even more glaring opportunity moments later after McNulty teed up Baldock, but he somehow failed to tap it in from six yards.

But it mattered little as Paul Clement’s men doubled their advantage with 20 minutes to play. After Baldock had been fouled just outside the box, Swift stepped up and powerfully swerved a free-kick into the top right-hand corner, out of reach of goalkeeper Camp.

Birmingham never looked like forging a comeback, but it was not all quite plain sailing for the Royals with goalscorer Meite also forced off injured with eight minutes to play, allowing a debut for John O’Shea in his place.

And the veteran Irishman proved his worth minutes after coming on, producing a vital last-ditch challenge to deny Che Adams after the forward had already been thwarted by Walker.

Reading’s debut keeper was called into action again before the night was out, getting down low to thwart Beryly Lubala and preserve his clean sheet.

READING: Walker; Yiadom, Ilori, Moore (c), Blackett; Meite (O’Shea 82), Bacuna (Rinomhota 73), Swift, Barrow (Clement 27); McNulty, Baldock.
Subs not used: Mannone, Richards, Kelly, Bodvarsson.
Goals: Meite (11), Swift (72)
Yellow card: Rinomhota (78)

BIRMINGHAM: Camp; Harding, Roberts, Scarr, Dacres-Cogley; Mahoney (Jota 66), G. Gardner (Lakin 73), Kieftenbeld (c), Solomon-Otabor; Lubala, Bogle (Adams 66).
Subs not used: Trueman, Seddon, N’Doye, Maghoma.
Yellow cards: Gardner (18), Dacres-Cogley (29)

Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 6,934 (including 1,021 away)

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