Aston Villa 1 Reading 1 - Report and pictures
Villa were denied a third win of the season as Sam Baldock’s controversial stoppage time penalty earned Reading a point.
Steve Bruce’s men looked on course for victory after Ahmed Elmohamady headed them in front early in the second half.
But Baldock fired Reading level in the third minute of stoppage time, after referee Darren England adjudged Villa skipper James Chester to have fouled Josh Sims.
Villa had earlier lost Jack Grealish to injury on an ultimately frustrating afternoon.
The late penalty was the third stoppage time goal in as many games at Villa Park this season.
But unlike the first two, this one went against the hosts, who were left to rue their inability to kill-off the struggling visitors.
Elmohamady’s goal had put Villa in firm command on an afternoon when they were, admittedly, some way below their best.
Yet they failed to build on the lead and paid the price when referee England ruled Chester had fouled Sims, despite the skipper seeming to clearly win the ball.
The late leveller also denied Orjan Nyland a first clean sheet. The goalkeeper had earlier produced a brilliant double save to deny Baldock and Yakou Meite.
Grealish had earlier been taken off at the break after picking up a knock in the first-half. While his fitness will be a huge concern for Bruce, the boss will have taken comfort by an impressive debut from Anwar El Ghazi. The Netherlands international set-up Elmohamady’s goal with a cross and proved a constant menace all game.
Bruce made two changes to the team which had drawn 2-2 with Brentford on Wednesday night.
It included a debut for El Ghazi, who replaced Albert Adomah on the left-wing. The other change saw Birkir Bjarnason come in for Glenn Whelan in the heart of midfield.
Villa started strongly and might have led inside the opening 30 seconds had John McGinn, after breaking clear, chosen to square the ball to Jonathan Kodjia. Instead his shot lacked power and was comfortably saved byVito Mannone.
The Reading keeper was then denied El Ghazi a debut goal with his legs, before Chester rattled the bar with a header from Axel Tuanzebe’s cross.
It was not one-way traffic. A well-timed challenge from Bjarnason was required to deny former Wolves man Jon Dadi Bodvarsson a clear sight at goal, after a poor pass from the Iceland international had set up a Reading counter.
Modou Barrow also forced Nyland into his save low down to his right as the visitors showed glimpses of promise.
Steadily the hosts began to lose momentum. A sliced Grealish half-volley, across the face of goal, was a rare moment of alarm as Reading began to get more comfortable.
It was the visitors who would finish the opening 45 minutes on the attack, with a Barrow corner leading to a scramble in the box, while Nyland saved a Leandro Bacuna free-kick low down.
Grealish, who had struggled to find his rhythm and had treatment after one particular challenge, came off at the break.
Within six minutes of the restart Villa were ahead. El Ghazi was the creator, curling in a right-footed cross which Elmohamady, having got in between two defenders, headed into the bottom corner.
The breakthrough achieved, Villa set about trying to seal the three points. Kodjia infuriated Bruce by shooting over when well placed following a strong burst forward by El Ghazi, while Hourihane, who had replaced Grealish, dragged a shot across goal after good work by fellow substitute Adomah.
Reading had offered little but with eight minutes to go would have drawn level but for Nyland’s heroics.
The keeper first denied Baldock at point blank range after Josh Sims’ cross from the right was missed by Jedinak, before regaining his footing to save Meite’s follow-up after the ball had bounced down off the bar.
Villa looked to have heeded the warning and were on course for victory until deep in stoppage time.
Chester seemed to cleanly win the ball as he slid in on Sims but referee England ruled otherwise, Baldock slamming the penalty down the middle.
13 OFF THE BAR - James Chester rattles the woodwork with a header as Villa make a bright start.
51 GOAL Ahmed Elmohamady puts Villa ahead, nodding home Anwar El Ghazi’s cross for his second goal of the season.
90+3 GOAL Sam Baldock slams Reading level from the spot.
Villa (4-1-4-1): Nyland, Tuanzebe, Chester (c), Jedinak, Hutton, Bjarnason, Elmohamady, Grealish (Hourihane HT), McGinn, El Ghazi (Adomah 67), Kodjia (Taylor 90+1) Subs not used: Elphick, Whelan, Hepburn-Murphy, Moreira (gk).
Reading (4-4-2): Mannone, Yiadom, Illori, Moore, Blackett, Barrow (Meite HT), Bacuna, Meyler, Aluko (Sims 67), Bodvarsson (McNulty 81), Baldock Subs not used: O’Shea, Swift, Kelly, Walker (gk).