Nigel Adkins’s first home game as Reading manager ended in defeat as Southampton cruised to a 2-0 win at the Madejski Stadium.
The bustling Jay Rodriguez inspired the visitors with a goal and assist in an all-action performance, with Reading contributing to their downfall with slack positional play.
Adam Lallana added a late second, his 50th goal for the club, as Mauricio Pochettino’s side cruised to what was a comfortable win in the end.
The result puts Saints 11th in the Premier League, seven points ahead of the drop zone, while Reading are mired to the bottom, the same number of points short of safety.
With Adkins taking charge of his first home Reading match against the club who so cruelly dispensed with his services, the hosts started brightly as Southampton struggled to keep the ball on the ground.
Indeed the Royals should have taken the lead during a frantic three-minute spell midway through the half, as an unmarked Adam Le Fondre missed a good chance on the volley, Hal Robson-Kanu had a penalty claim rejected after what was later shown to be a clean tackle from Jos Hooiveld, while Adrian Mariappa was denied a headed goal by a fine low stop from Artur Boruc.
The visitors clicked into gear as in-form striker Rodriguez started to combine well with Gaston Ramirez and Rickie Lambert, with Uruguay winger Ramirez heading wide from a good spot after linking up with his team-mates.
When Saints did take the lead there was a shade of controversy as Reading claimed Rodriguez went in with a raised boot when he poked Steven Davis’s lofted ball past returning Royals keeper Adam Federici. Certainly Federici appeared to shirk the challenge as the ex-Burnley striker lunged for the ball, but it was a question of bravery more than anything, with the otherwise excellent Sean Morrison also guilty of slacking off.
It was Rodriguez’s third goal in three matches and his sixth of the season so far, a decent return for a man learning his trade at the highest level.
Minutes later Rodriguez hit the angle of post and crossbar with a ferocious drive after a cute pass from Ramirez, who was later guilty of a glaring miss as he mis-hit wide of an open goal after Federici had saved well from Rodriguez.
The match was slipping away from Adkins, who was forced into a half-time change as Mikele Leigertwood – who was jeered by his own fans a few weeks back – replaced the injured Hope Akpan.
The initial second-half response was good from Reading, who closed down from the front as they chased an equaliser.
But Southampton were still the more threatening going forward, Davis guilty of panicking in front of goal as he under-hit an early finish following a delightful through ball by Lambert.
Lambert almost poked one in, just failing to slide on to a low cross from Rodriguez, who was continuing to enjoy himself as he juggled the ball before volleying wide, in the style of Saints legend Matthew Le Tissier.
A second goal seemed inevitable and it came with 18 minutes remaining as Reading once again went to sleep defensively, this time Mariappa at fault as he allowed substitute Lallana to race on to a Rodriguez up-and-under and slid a cool low finish past Federici.
Things just would not go Reading’s way, McAnuff denied a corner when his shot took a clear deflection, and Boruc adjudged to have kept the ball out after he almost carried a Le Fondre header over the line.
Southampton were in control though, racking up close to 60% possession as they returned to their short-passing style in winding down the clock.
The result shows how these sides have drifted apart since promotion, as Southampton move into mid-table respectability, with a total of 37 points that probably secures Premier League safety. Reading, meanwhile, stay bottom, seven points off 17th-placed Wigan, who boast a couple of games in hand.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jay Rodriguez (Southampton) – A goal and assist for the bustling striker, who also hit the woodwork in a performance of both power and poise.
READING: Federici 6, Gunter 6, Kelly 6, Mariappa 5, Morrison 6, Karacan 6, Akpan 6, Guthrie 6, McAnuff 6, Robson-Kanu 6, Le Fondre 5; Subs: Leigertwood 6, McCleary 6, Hunt N/A
SOUTHAMPTON: Boruc 6, Clyne 6, Yoshida 7, Hooiveld 7, Shaw 7, Schneiderlin 6, Cork 6, S Davis 6, Ramírez 6, Lambert 7, Rodriguez 8; Subs: Lallana 7, Guly N/A
- Sports & Recreation
- Jay Rodriguez