Reading defeated Millwall 1-0 at The Den to move to the top of the Championship with a debut goal from Naby Sarr.
In a thrilling battle, the former Huddersfield player’s header in the first half gave the Royals the victory, making them the first team to win at Millwall this year.
Paul Ince’s team dominated the opening stanza and held off the hosts’ pressure to reach the top thanks to a rugged rearguard.
Gary Rowett made three alterations to the team that lost to Norwich the last time out, and Millwall got off to a strong start.
Wing-back Danny McNamara’s dangerous cross from the edge of the box was deflected away for a corner before Reading goalkeeper Joe Lumley, making his comeback, made the game’s opening save by reacting swiftly to stop a close-range header from Tom Bradshaw.
It was precisely what the visitors deserved, and the rest of the first quarter saw a dominant time of dominance, except for the occasional Millwall excursion into the Reading territory.
The second half went in the same manner, and five minutes after the break, Jeff Hendrick had a chance to double Reading’s advantage.
Hendrick was left one-on-one with Bartosz Bialkowski after a breakdown in a Millwall move down the right and some sharp counterattacking from the visitors in response. Still, the Polish goalkeeper quickly gathered the former Burnley player’s feeble effort.
To change the situation, Rowett made three changes: Tyler Burey, Zian Flemming, and Andreas Voglsammer.
Just after the hour mark, Jake Cooper’s header appeared to have given the home team an equalizer as it snuck into the Reading goal.
After the ball looked to strike Benik Afobe on the way through, the goal was quickly ruled out for offside.
Late pressure from Rowett’s team even led to them hitting the woodwork after a misdirected cross. Still, they avoided another goal when Shane Long blew a golden opportunity in the dying moments.
Tuesday night’s match pits Reading against Sheffield United while Millwall faces Burnley, dropping them to 16th in the standings after this loss.
The managers’ remarks
Gary Rowett of Millwall: “I believe we had a good start. We got the game off to a great start and put them under a ton of pressure right away. The problem is that you can’t keep winning games when you’re behind, as we’ve discovered so frequently this season.
“After six league games and one cup match, we have only ever scored the opening goal against Stoke. That is frequently used to define this separation. Reading sat in and made things very difficult. They didn’t have a lot of possession in the game, but they fought back admirably.”
Paul Ince from Reading “After the game, I told the guys I was sad that we hadn’t finished the game and had learnt our lesson. Or, to put it another way, you win by a score of two or three and the game is done. However, they have started putting balls into our box that may go anywhere in the last five to ten minutes.
“So, is this a lottery then? It would have been disastrous if you had ended up with a stalemate since we deserved to win by two or three goals.”