Reading maintained their perfect start to the Championship season with victory at Cardiff City.
A sedate first half offered little excitement but, two minutes into the second, Michael Morrison headed the visitors in front from a free-kick.
Lucas Joao finished with composure to double Reading’s lead.
Cardiff substitute Lee Tomlin bundled in from close range to set up a tense finish, but the hosts could not force a late equaliser.
This was a third successive win for early Championship leaders Reading under new manager Veljko Paunovic, who is enjoying a superb start to his reign.
For Cardiff, however, a second defeat from two home matches this season dampened the sense of optimism which greeted last weekend’s 2-0 win at Nottingham Forest.
Wales striker Kieffer Moore had opened his Bluebirds account with both goals at the City Ground but, during a staid first half on Saturday, he was running the channels and providing crosses rather than getting on the end of them.
The summer signing from Wigan Athletic seemed compelled to try and conjure chances himself, taking matters into his own hands in lieu of any creativity from his team-mates.
Reading were similarly limited in attack, with Joao’s low shot, saved by Alex Smithies, a rare effort on target before the break.
In the second half, however, the Royals were clinical.
They took the lead in the 47th minute, Michael Olise crossing well from a free-kick and finding Morrison, who headed powerfully into the top corner.
Cardiff at least played with more urgency after falling behind and they were close to an equaliser when Leandro Bacuna’s low shot was deflected goalwards by Morrison, but then brilliantly saved by Rafael Cabral.
Three minutes after preserving their lead, Reading doubled it when Josh Laurent passed inside the penalty area to Joao, who shaped to shoot and waited for Cardiff defender Curtis Nelson to commit himself before firing past Smithies.
Cardiff had posed more of a threat since Tomlin’s introduction after an hour, and it was last season’s top scorer who gave the hosts hope of a comeback when he squeezed the ball in from a corner despite the best attempts of Andy Rinomhota on the line.
Neil Harris’ side launched a succession of long balls into the visitors’ penalty area as they pushed for a late equaliser, but none of those hopeful hits posed any danger to a solid Reading defence, who kept their side at the top of the Championship table.
Cardiff City manager Neil Harris:
“It’s hugely disappointing. We set our stall out at the start of the season to be resolute at home and build a platform for a top-six challenge.
“The frustrating thing for me is we’ve conceded four goals at home, and look at the goals. We have to learn. First goal against Sheffield Wednesday we give the ball away cheaply and the second comes from a set play, then today the first goal comes from a set play and the second from us giving the ball away cheaply in the middle of the park.
“That’s what hurts. We’re the better team, we’ve created the better chances, got more balls in the box, more set plays and we’ve lost the game. That’s the frustration.
“I said to the players the effort is there. After Sheffield Wednesday I questioned their focus but not today. If we want to be top-six side, we can’t give away poor goals.”
Reading manager Veljko Paunovic:
“The win reflects the spirit, the team did very well
“The identity is still forging but we have a game plan and we stick to it. We adjusted to go through difficult moments.
“It was very even in the first half, but we finally opened up the game and it changed when he got the other good goal to increase the advantage
“I am proud because we didn’t lose our composure when we were under the pressure. We showed a warrior spirit.”
- 18CunninghamSubstituted forMurphyat 90′minutes
- 6VaulksSubstituted forTomlinat 61′minutes
- 33HoilettBooked at 18minsSubstituted forGlatzelat 74′minutes
- 10MooreBooked at 53mins
- 33Cabral Barbosa
- 20Araruna HoffmannSubstituted forHolmesat 61′minutes
- 11MeiteSubstituted forMcIntyreat 78′minutes
- 7OliseBooked at 90mins
- 18Lucas JoãoSubstituted forPuscasat 86′minutes
Match ends, Cardiff City 1, Reading 2.
Second Half ends, Cardiff City 1, Reading 2.
Michael Olise (Reading) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Sheyi Ojo (Cardiff City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Michael Olise (Reading).
Attempt saved. Michael Olise (Reading) left footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Thomas Holmes.
Foul by Lee Tomlin (Cardiff City).
Thomas Holmes (Reading) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Sheyi Ojo (Cardiff City).
Andy Rinomhota (Reading) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Cardiff City. Josh Murphy replaces Greg Cunningham.
Corner, Cardiff City. Conceded by Liam Moore.
Corner, Cardiff City. Conceded by Andy Rinomhota.
Attempt blocked. Kieffer Moore (Cardiff City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Substitution, Reading. George Puscas replaces Lucas João because of an injury.
Foul by Sheyi Ojo (Cardiff City).
Omar Richards (Reading) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Cardiff City 1, Reading 2. Lee Tomlin (Cardiff City) left footed shot from very close range to the bottom left corner following a corner.
Attempt blocked. Kieffer Moore (Cardiff City) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Marlon Pack with a cross.
Corner, Cardiff City. Conceded by Thomas Holmes.