Aston Villa 3-0 Reading: Steve Bruce's side cruise to victory over 10-man Royals
Last Updated: 03/04/18 11:14pm
Aston Villa bounced back to winning form with an easy 3-0 Sky Bet Championship win over Reading.
Steve Bruce's side outplayed struggling Reading for almost the entire game and the Royals, who played with 10 men for the last hour, succumbed to second-half goals from Birkir Bjarnason, Conor Hourihane and Scott Hogan.
Reading had defeated Villa in their last two encounters but there were few opportunities to repeat their success as they slumped to their ninth defeat in 10 away games and now find themselves deeply involved in a relegation battle.
They were completely dominated by a Villa side who eventually recorded their most comfortable win of the season.
A late bonus for Villa saw Jonathan Kodjia, their main marksman last season, made his first home appearance since last October as a second-half substitute to give the club an added boost in the run-in to the end of the season. He has been absent with an ankle injury.
With only one point from their previous three games, Villa's uncertainty was evident in the early skirmishes.
Although Jack Grealish had an early chance in the fourth minute with a volley which went over the bar, Villa lacked initial conviction against a Reading side who began with five players across the back.
Sterling defensive play enabled the Royals to stay in the game, helped by some indifferent finishing which was highlighted on one occasion midway through the first half when Neil Taylor made a hash of a left-footed shot.
Reading's hopes effectively disappeared on the half-hour when David Edwards collected a second yellow card and an early departure from the game.
Two minutes later only a smart save by Vito Mannone kept out a Hogan header and in the next raid he blocked an effort on the goal-line from the same Villa player.
The over-worked Mannone then casually held a long-range Grealish shot.
The goalkeeper was helpless a minute into the second half though when Villa broke the stalemate.
Grealish set up Robert Snodgrass, who jinked his way into space before slipping a low pass into the path of Bjarnson to score with a swerving shot to the right of Mannone.
The second goal arrived in the 62nd minute when Hourihane was on hand to head home a short cross from Snodgrass.
Villa's third goal came when Mannone was stranded yards out of his goal and Hogan took full advantage to score with a low raking shot in the 70th minute.
Steve Bruce: "There are going to a few twists and turns. Obviously Fulham are there or thereabouts. The way they are performing at the moment, and to have the run they have had, is remarkable.
"There are seven games to go and there is a chance we can win promotion and we remember we take on second placed Cardiff at home next week. After a difficult couple of weeks there was a freshness about the team and I was very pleased with the performance against Reading,"
Paul Clement: "We have played a team that is chasing promotion and we are fighting relegation. At times you could see that gulf in quality.
"We were under pressure for a long time but we forgot to attack. The timing of the first goal so early in the second half was a big blow and ultimately we shot ourselves in the foot."