Despite playing over an hour of the game with 10 men, Patrick Vieira’s side showed resilience and composure to keep the Frenchman’s unbeaten record intact and walk away with a 3-1 win.
In Patrick Vieira’s penultimate pre-season friendly before the Premier League campaign commences, the Eagles started slowly at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, struggling to create any clear cut chances or get a real foothold on the ball to dictate the game’s pace.
Their afternoon was made trickier when Cheikhou Kouyate was adjudged to have scythed down Ovie Ejaria and deny Reading a clear goalscoring opportunity.
But the Eagles rallied after halftime, and Jean-Philippe Mateta scored from the penalty spot to give Vieira’s side the lead in the 52nd minute.
John Swift’s free-kick brought the home side level midway through the second half.
But Palace restored their lead after debutant Conor Gallagher broke up the play in the centre circle and played through Jordan Ayew, who cannoned a shot off a Reading body and into the back of the net.
With the last kick of the game, Scott Banks’ exquisite free-kick from just outside of the box wrapped up the victory.
Here are five takeaways from the match:
JAMES MCARTHUR LOOKING UP TO SPEED
The 18 games that James McArthur missed towards the back end of last season was the longest time he had been away from the pitch since signing for the club in 2014 – and his presence was sorely missed at the heart of Palace’s midfield.
The 33-year-old has looked sprightly and energetic this pre-season, demonstrating his ambition to close down at any opportunity and his nous to break up Reading’s advances forward.
The Scottish midfielder displayed his elegant footwork to squeeze away from the Reading press on several occasions – and linked up well with new signing Conor Gallagher.
JEAN-PHILIPPE MATETA FINDS THE NET
The French forward, who had come close to opening his account away at Ipswich last weekend, had Palace’s best opportunity to give the 10-men the lead.
With three minutes left of the first half, Mateta spun Liam Moore and Tom McIntyre and had only the goalkeeper to beat. However, after a heavy touch, the ball escaped the clutches of Mateta’s feet and rolled into the grateful hands of Rafael.
The forward finally scored his first goal of pre-season shortly into the second half. Although Mateta’s goal came via a penalty, it will give the forward confidence heading into the new season.
CONOR GALLAGHER’S DEBUT
Despite signing for the club less than 24 hours prior to this afternoon’s kickoff, Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher showed promise on his Crystal Palace debut.
The 21-year-old, who came on in the 55th minute, brought enthusiasm to a midfield that was dwindling after Nya Kirby was forced off to allow Vieira to bring on James Tomkins following Kouayte’s sending off.
Gallagher showed his inelegant reading of the game to restore Palace’s lead. The combative midfielder intercepted the pass in the middle of the pitch and set free Jordan Ayew, who drilled a deflected shot past Rafael.
THE EAGLES SHOWED RESILIENCE
This was by far Palace’s toughest test of pre-season.
Down to 10-men and having just conceded the equaliser, the Eagles refused to settle for a draw.
Vieira used the hungry youth team players in Jesurun Rak-Sakyi and Scott Banks to affect the game whilst also deploying Conor Gallagher to help breathe new life into the side.
Without Wilfried Zaha, Jeffrey Schlupp, Joachim Andersen, Luka Milivojevic, Christian Benteke and injured duo Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, Vieira still has an abundance of first-team talent to blood into his new-look Palace side.
ROB STREET’S EYE-CATCHING PRE-SEASON
After linking up well with Wilfried Zaha to score the first goal of the Patrick Vieira era against Walsall, Rob Street has gone from strength to strength this pre-season.
His 20-minute cameo against Charlton on Tuesday night was also impressive.
Considering Street was filling in at left-wing in place of Wilfried Zaha, the 19-year-old showed endeavour. He used his imperious frame to combat the Reading defence – attempting to bring the ball forward to spark an attack during his 70 minutes on the pitch.