Derby County suffered a 2-0 defeat to Reading in their 2020/21 Sky Bet Championship season opener at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Two goals in the final five minutes of the first-half was ultimately the undoing for the Rams, who couldn’t find a way back from Lucas Joao and Ovie Ejaria’s efforts.
Phillip Cocu handed Derby County league debuts to goalkeeper David Marshall, Dutch defender Mike te Wierik and Nathan Byrne, with the latter coming off the bench at half time.
Marshall was first called into action after 20 minutes when Joao burst forward and fired a vicious effort from inside the area. The Rams’ keeper rushed out and got a strong hand to palm the effort away.
John Swift was there for a second opportunity but sent his effort high over the crossbar.
The Rams patiently looked to build up play throughout the half, but struggled to carve out a clear opportunity, with Jack Marriott, Morgan Whittaker and Max Bird all sending shots well clear of the crossbar.
Chances for either side came few and far between until the final five minutes of the half when Joao came alive for the visitors. He broke the deadlock on the 40-minute mark when he flicked home from the corner.
He then turned provider five minutes later. He sprinted on to a long kick from the keeper and met the ball just outside the area.
After driving inside and holding off Mike te Wierik and Andre Wisdom, he back-heeled a pass to Ejaria in the left of the box and his first time effort glanced across goal and tucked into the far corner.
Soon after the restart, Whittaker looked to pull a goal back when a headed clearance from a Reading defender landed at his feet.
He drove forward and rifled his shot from 25-yards out. The low effort bounded past bodies in the box, but Rafael Cabral dived to make the stop and the bottom corner.
Reading looked the bigger threat from there, however. Ten minutes into the second-half, they hit the Rams on the counter-attack and it was Swift who made a long run and charged into the left of the area. With no one else around, Byrne cut across to chase him down and force his shot, which Marshall managed to get a hand on.
Just moments later and it was Joao looking dangerous again. He met a cross by Andy Yiadom from the right and his volley rattled off the cross bar.
In the final ten minutes, the Rams fought to pull a goal back, with defender Craig Forsyth powering a low effort from well outside the box towards the goal, but it was deflected out for a corner. The resulting set piece was sent short to Whittaker who saw his shot glance wide of the far post.
Cocu’s side will now switch their attention to the Carabao Cup where there will welcome fellow Championship side Preston North End to Pride Park on Tuesday evening, before heading south to face Luton Town in the league on Saturday.
Derby County: Marshall, Wisdom (Byrne, 45), Forsyth, Shinnie (Rooney, 63), te Wierik, Bird, Marriott, Clarke, Sibley, Whittaker, Knight.
Substitutes: Roos, Evans, Buchanan, Davies, Brown.
Reading: Cabrol, Richards, Morrison, Moore, Olise (Holmes, 88, Rinomhota, Swift (Baldock, 78), Ejaria (Aluko, 68), Yiadom, Joao, Laurant.
Substitutes: Southwood, Arauna,) Briston, Puscas.