Swansea City 0-0 Reading: Inspired Rafael frustrates Swans to keep clean sheet

QPR v Reading

Reading held out to frustrate Swansea City in their final game of the calendar year to earn an away point at the Liberty Stadium.

The hosts had the better of the play but were unable to break the Royals defence after an inspired performance from Reading keeper Rafael.

The point keeps Reading in the play-off places in sixth position in the Championship after 22 games.

In their final game of the year, Reading faced a stern test against high-flying Swansea City who were hoping to close the gap on league leaders Norwich City.

Still without their two top goal scorers, Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite as well as several other key injuries, the Royals were up against a Swansea side who boast the joint best defence in the top four divisions of England.

The Swans had most of the early possession, but weren’t able to create a clear cut chance until the 16th minute.

Andre Ayew tried his luck with an audacious overhead kick which he almost executed after he was found by Jake Bidwell’s cross but his acrobatic effort flew just over the target.

Despite their good possession, Swansea almost fell behind when Tom McIntyre came close to finding the net again just days after scoring his first professional goal.

A short free kick routine saw Michael Olise whip in a superb cross which was met by the onrushing run of McIntyre on the volley, but Freddie Woodman made a quick reaction save to keep the ball out.

Ayew continued to cause problems to the Reading defence as he moved past two defenders to create space for a shot, but his long range drive was held by Rafael.

Reading’s Brazilian shot stopper was then called into action again when Ayew’s diving header was kept out the net as Rafael dived to his right and clawed the ball away.

Steve Cooper’s side then created the best chance of the half and should have put themselves in the lead in the 37th minute.

Bidwell cushioned the ball down from a corner for Marc Guehi who looked set to finish the move from just eight yards out but he fired the ball high over the crossbar on the half volley.

The Royals countered quickly from a Swansea corner and looked dangerous as Olise brought the ball forward, supported by Tomas Esteves and Ovie Ejaria, but before the Frenchman could offload the ball to a teammate, he was cynically taken down by Ryan Bennett, who picked up a yellow card.

Sam Baldock tried an optimistic drive from 30 yards out and despite getting a good connection on the shot, it caused no complications for Woodman in the Swansea goal as the sides went in at half-time goalless.

The Swansea pressure continued early in the second half and Rafael had to make another diving save as he got down to palm out Joel Latibeaudiere’s header from close range.

Veljko Paunovic made his first change in the 58th minute as Sone Aluko replaced Alfa Semedo.

Another headed chance came Swansea’s way as Ayew clipped a ball to the back post but Rafael was able to catch Bidwell’s header.

Reading broke forward as Olise slipped a ball in behind for Rinomhota, but he couldn’t find Baldock in the middle as is cross was deflected.

Paunovic’s second substitution of the match saw John Swift came on to replace Baldock in the 67th minute.

Despite Swansea’s pressure, it was Reading who came closest to snatching a winner as McIntyre made a surging run to the front post from Aluko’s corner and forced a good save from Woodman to ti the ball over the bar.

Rafael came to the rescue again with his finest save of the match as Ayew’s header looked destined for the net but the Royals keeper flung himself to his right to make the stop.

The game ended goalless as Reading collected their ninth clean sheet of the Championship season.

The Royals kick off 2021 with an away trip to Huddersfield Town on Saturday.

Swansea City: Woodman, Cabango, Bennett, Guehi, Smith, Roberts, Fulton, Grimes, Bidwell, Ayew, Lowe
Subs: Manning, Benda, Gyokreres, Routledge, Dhanda, Latibeaudiere, Cooper, Garrick, Palmer

Reading: Rafael, Esteves, Holmes, Morrison, McIntyre, Rinomhota, Laurent, Olise, Semedo, Ejaria, Baldock
Subs: Southwood, Richards, Watson, Dorsett, East, Melvin-Lambert, Swift, Aluko

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