Reading 2-2 Swansea City: Andre Ayew inspires Swansea to clinch playoff finish
(Photo by Athena Pictures/ Getty Images)

Swansea City and Reading played out a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Madejski Stadium, cementing the Swan's position in the playoffs and condemning the Royals to another season in the Championship.

Steve Cooper's Swansea side conjured a profusion of chances in the first half but fell behind to Yakou Miete's 31st-minute header.

After a scrappy first half from both sides, the game sprung to life in the second half, when Cooper made a triple substitution, which saw Andre Ayew among the introductions.

It was this tactical adjustment that resulted in two goals from Swansea in the remaining 30 minutes to give them a lead.

Tomas Esteves fired an equaliser past Woodman at the death, but it failed to ignite the spark needed to keep Reading's promotion hopes alive. 

  • The match

After Barnsley's victory on Saturday, Reading were forced to fight for all three points when the Swans arrived at RG2. In an attempt to regain playoff status, John Swift made his first start in midfield since early February, while Lucas Joao saw a welcome return to the attack in place of George Puscas

In Steve Cooper's 100th appearance as Swansea City manager, he made three changes from the Swan's defeat against Queens Park Rangers. Liam Cullen, Ben Cabango and Conor Hourihane were installed into the starting eleven. Their goalscoring focal point, Andre Ayew, was given a place on the bench.

Swansea have not lost against Reading in the last 14 meetings, and it was almost a perfect start for the Welsh side.

Inside the first minute, Jamal Lowe swerved a cross into the corridor of uncertainty following a deep free-kick. Cabango was the quickest to sense the opportunity, but after throwing himself goalwards, the ball evaded just wide.

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The Royals have tended to suffer from an over-reliance on their top goalscorer, Lucas Joao. And the striker's late-season dropoff has come because Reading have lacked creativity in the centre of the pitch, often looking flat in midfield.

This was a narrative that seemed to add another chapter for most of the first half. That was until Swift refused to follow the script later on. 

Until then, however, it was the Swans who looked the most likely to score. Yet, pop shots from Matt Grimes and Jamal Lowe weren't enough to find the all-important opener in the first 30 minutes. 

Liam Cullen and Tom Holmes, the latter of which picked up an early yellow card, shaped up to be the battle of the half.

Holmes was lucky to get away when Cullen found some room on the left flank to dart forward. The Reading defender got his body in the way of his opponent, but Cullen proved too strong and won the ball back. Luckily for Reading, the referee adjudged a foul amidst the tussle. 

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Surprisingly, against the landscape of the game, Reading found an unlikely goal to keep their playoff dreams alive on the half-hour mark. After a promising start to the game, Swansea found themselves trailing, a testament to a late Reading momentum shift.

A delightful inswinging ball from John Swift was steered into the path of Yakou Meite. The Reading attacker did well to muscle his way in front of his man and head home a crucial goal. 

Lucas Joao almost added another goal to Swansea's deficit with five minutes to play before halftime. 

A mistake from Hourihane set the striker on his way to the box. Joao looks up, sizes up Woodman, and places a shot to the right of the goal. The goalkeeper dealt with the shot comfortably, sparing his teams blushes. 

  • Second half

Much like the first half, Swansea were given an exceptional chance to get a goal early on.

Lowe's driven cross found the head of Cullen, but the Swansea man got his angles wrong, and his header went wildly off-target, embodying his manager's frustration on the sidelines. 

A scrappy start to the second half illustrated Reading's refusal to surrender their playoff hopes. While their passes were often misplaced, their defending showed resilience; up keeping the idea that Paunovic's demands to 'embrace the challenge' were taken seriously.

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There was no doubt, though, that Swansea City were knocking on the door in the second half.

Conor Hourihane whipped a cross into the path of Marc Guehi. The young defender lacked the conviction in his shot to trouble the congested Reading defence, who cleared their lines and kept their lead intact. 

With 25 minutes to play and just a draw needed to confirm the Swans inclusion of the 2020/21 Championship playoffs, Andre Ayew was brought into the fray in the hope that he would finish one of Swansea's chances. 

It was his inspiration that settled the visitor's nerves on the 66th minute; an instant impact from the bench drew Swansea level.

Ayew found a way out of the Reading press, passing the ball to Jay Fulton, who elected to shoot towards goal. His shot was spilt, but Lowe was quickest to the rebound, slotting home to make it 1-1. 

The game was turned on its head following the equaliser, with both sides springing to life. While Reading responded well to the goal, implementing more urgency to their attacks, Swansea pushed for a winner. 

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With Reading pushing forward, chances were always going to crop up for the Swans.

Strong hold-up play from Matt Grimes initiated a swarm forward from Lowe, but the striker's resulting shot trickled wide. Despite having several attackers in support, none of them could profit from the misfire. 

In the manner that the game was transpiring, a winner seemed inevitable, so when Andre Ayew made his team tick again on the 83rd minute, it was no surprise it ended with a goal. 

Little give and goes on the edge of the area carved room for Jake Bidwell to jink his way through. He squared it to Ayew, who smashed the ball into the back of the net, securing Swansea's playoff place and ending Reading hopes. 

Tactical adjustments from Steve Cooper in the remaining moments saw Reading become restricted to wayward shots from afar. But, in a whirlwind game, nothing was going to stop Reading in their last-ditch efforts to stay within playoff grasp.

Jamal Lowe was made to rue his missed chance, which saw his shot cannon off the inside of the post when Tomas Esteves restored faint belief in stoppage time. 

Esteves fired a shot past Woodman after rocketing through a congestion of players on the edge of the box. The Royals scrambled the ball back into possession and retreated to the halfway line to get another one, but it was too late. 

Reading's playoff dreams had faded out of existence.

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