Phillip Cocu was understandably frustrated after seeing Derby County taste a 2-0 defeat against Reading in their opening fixture of the 2020/21 Sky Bet Championship season on Saturday afternoon.
The Royals scored twice just before half-time to put themselves in control at Pride Park Stadium and in the process inflicted an opening day defeat on the Rams for the first time since the 2008/09 campaign.
Lucas Joao opened the scoring for the visitors, tapping in a low Michael Olise corner in the 40th minute. And five minutes later Joao assisted Ovie Ejaria to slot home and double Reading’s lead.
Derby pushed for a way back into the game in the second half, bringing new signing Nathan Byrne and skipper Wayne Rooney off the bench, but they were unable to break down the Royals’ suborn backline.
Cocu was in particular unhappy with Derby’s showing in the first-half as they allowed Reading to gain the ascendancy and lead at the interval.
Speaking to RamsTV after the game, Cocu said: “I think in the first 30 minutes we underperformed and for me that is unacceptable. We should always play on the front foot and with positive football.
“If it was because we were nervous for the start of the season, I don’t know. I didn’t recognise some of our players. Making a mistake is a part of football so if you are afraid to make a bad pass or a bad decision then you should not come out to play a game.
“In midfield, for example, we hesitated instead of playing a high-tempo game and then we were looking at each other at half-time and we were 2-0 down. That is what upsets me the most, because I want the team on the pitch to play how we can with bravery and confidence.”
The 49-year-old added: “The second half was much better. We played with a better intensity, more forward play, more forward runs, and more entries into the penalty area. We showed that we can play much better, but when you are losing 2-0 it is very hard to get back in the game.
“We struggled with the final finish and that is also something we need to work on. We spoke about it beforehand and we are trying to strengthen the team in the forward positions. With a few injuries, we do not have a lot of options and that is something we are trying to change for the team.”
Cocu was frustrated to concede from a set-play, after seeing a big improvement in how Derby defended corners and free-kicks in the second half of last season.
Joao’s near-post flick opened the scoring for Reading and the Rams’ boss once again highlighted the need to show desire in both boxes when it comes to set-pieces.
He said: “I am disappointed in how we conceded the first goal. I think we had about four or five corners and didn’t score a goal. Reading had one and it went in our net. We only can blame ourselves for that.
“It is about the desire to defend, then to score, even if you are smaller than your opponent. You need to make sure your opponent does not touch the ball. It is something we focused on a lot in pre-season, so when it happens in the first game it is a disappointment for us.”
While naturally disappointed to start the campaign with a defeat on home turf, Cocu was also keen to retain perspective too.
With 45 more league fixtures to play, plus cup competitions, he knows the season will not be defined by one single game.
“It is of course important not to be too down, but you have to be critical to yourself and to the team,” he said.
“We will play some great games and we will probably play some bad ones as well, but we cannot allow the first 30 minutes to happen again.
“We have to do better and that is something we will discuss because on Tuesday we have a cup game against Preston at Pride Park. We have to put on a better performance.”