Wolves 1 (Jordao 28) Reading 1 (Boye 90+9) (FT, Wolves win 4-2 on penalties)
Wolves finally returned to winning ways – albeit on a penalty shootout – as they reached the fourth round of the Carabao Cup and a trip to Villa by beating Reading in a shootout.
But there was a potentially heavy price to pay as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side had two debutants – goalscorer Bruno Jordao and Meritan Shabani – stretchered off as they ended a four-match spell without a win.
Jordao was forced off injured in the 41st minute while Shabani’s mystery but worrying exit on 88 forced nine minutes of time added on, during which Reading equalised in the last of them through Lucas Boye’s header.
The double exit meant Wolves finished the game with 10 men as they had used all three substitutes.
But just when they needed it most, the 20,702 crowd – Molineux’s smallest since September 19, 2017 when 12,740 watched a 1-0 win over Bristol Rovers in the same competition – played their part in the shootout by roaring Wolves on at every turn.
And the players responded as captain for the night Ruben Neves, Jesus Vallejo, Ryan Bennett and Ruben Vinagre kept their nerve to score for Wolves. Substitute George Puscas and Matt Miazga obliged for Reading and John Swift’s effort was saved by John Ruddy and Boye blazed over the bar.
Like Reading boss Jose Gomes, Nuno made 10 changes to the team that salvaged a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace on Sunday, but it was still a strong 3-4-3 line-up, featuring Matt Doherty, Ryan Bennett as sweeper, Neves, Patrick Cutrone and Morgan Gibbs-White initially at left-sided forward. Jordao, and Shabani, Taylor Perry and Luke Cundle as substitutes were Wolves’ four debutants.
It was an unfamiliar line-up from Wolves but they controlled the first half and looked composed in possession. At times they lacked quality with their final ball.
Gibbs-White in particular was untidy on occasions and must have been frustrated with the number of times he lost possession, while Neto needs to pass quicker rather than risk losing the ball and/or slowing attacks down.
It was interesting to see Ryan Bennett at sweeper for the first time. The experienced centre back slotted in fine but given the personnel involved, Jesus Vallejo might have been preferred there as he seems to be a more natural sweeper.
Reading showed first when Boye turned Vallejo at the far post only to fire a full-blooded shot straight at Ruddy.
Wolves’ first threat came when Cutrone managed to get a left-foot shot in from an acute angle and goalkeeper Joao Neves Virginia parried.
The tricky Neto claimed a penalty when he tumbled under challenge from defender Tyler Blackett in the 20th minute, but instead, referee Peter Bankes booked the Italian for diving.
Soon afterwards Gibbs-White should have done better when Doherty picked him out with a fine diagonal ball in a good position, but he scuffed his shot straight at Virginia.
Wolves however had dominated proceedings and went ahead in the 28th minute through Jordao.
Neves spotted his fellow Portuguese midfielder unmarked with a square pass and Jordao took advantage of the space in front of him by letting fly with a low drive from 20 yards. It looked a routine effort that Virginia should have saved but the Reading keeper somehow allowed the ball to go through his hands into the net.
But after two wild efforts from Reading forward Josh Barrett, Jordao’s night was to end on a sour note when he was stretchered off with an ankle injury after a challenge with midfielder Charlie Adam four minutes before the break.
Perry replaced him, in a move that initially saw Gibbs-White drop into central midfield alongside Neves with Perry playing as the left-sided forward of three up front.
Reading improved in the second half and they went desperately close to an equaliser in the 69th minute when Yakou Meite’s goalbound header was nodded off the line by Bennett.
Substitute Ovie Ejaria’s angled drive was tipped wide by Ruddy. And after Wolves failed to clear the resulting corner, Boye headed firmly past Ruddy from substitute Swift’s cross to force penalties.
Wolves (3-4-3): Ruddy; Vallejo, Bennett, Kilman; Doherty, Jordao (Perry 41), Neves, Vinagre; Neto (Cundle 83), Cutrone, Gibbs-White (Shabani 74).
Substitutes not used: Patricio, Coady, Sanderson, Moutinho.
Reading (3-4-3): Virginia; Miazga, McIntyre (Ejaria 56), Blackett; Howe (Puscas 66), Rinomhota, Adam (Swift 56), Richards; Meite, Barrett, Boye.
Substitutes not used: Walker, Baldock, Olise, Osho.
Referee: Peter Bankes (Wirral).