A heroic goalkeeping performance from Reading’s James Bailey was not enough to earn his side the win as KHC Dragons secured their place in the next round.
The game was an exciting encounter with the teams trading goals in an end-to-end match which had the crowd gripped right to the final whistle.
Reading took the lead early in the first quarter. Simon Mantell tapped home from close range after Darren Cheesman supplied the cross.
Mantell, who missed the London Olympics with a broken foot, was looking extremely dangerous in the early going and was unlucky not to add to the lead from a slipped penalty corner.
KHC threatened through Jeffrey Thys but Bailey made a fine sliding save to keep out the Dragons captain. However, it was Thys who supplied the cross which was finished off by Jesse Van Minde to make it 1-1 at the end of the first quarter.
The two teams stood toe-to-toe at the start of the second quarter. Thys was again denied by Bailey whilst at the other end Darren Cheesman couldn’t quite get a touch on a dangerous cross into the D.
With Reading pushing for a goal, KHC hit them on the break. Van Minde was clean through but Bailey did brilliantly to take the ball with his reverse stick and clear.
Against the run of play Reading took the lead. Tom Carson crossed and this time Craig Peel was on hand to apply the finish to give his side the lead.
As with the start of quarter 2, Bailey was called into action immediately at the start of quarter 3, this time advancing to block from Mathew Cobbaert. With Nick Page clearing off the line from a Dragons penalty corner the English side’s rearguard was creaking and it wasn’t long before the scores were level again. Van Minde guided home a deflection for his, and his team’s second. KHC sniffed blood and scored another from a Loick Luypaert drag flick.
With Reading rocking, Great Britain stars Richard Mantell and Jonty Clarke combined, the latter scoring a blistering third to tie the game up again.
The game was in the balance in the fourth quarter and Dragons were unsuccessful in attempting to get a penalty corner from a video referral. They took the lead however when Cobbaert smuggled the ball past Bailey for Thys, sliding in at the far post to touch home to send the vocal Belgian fans crazy.
Reading stepped up their search for an equaliser and spent the remainder of the quarter camped in the Dragons half but a combination of some excellent defending and some wayward passing in the final third allowed Dragons to cling on and book their place in the next round.
Reading will have to beat Saint Germain tomorrow if they are to advance from this, The Group of Death.