A brace from Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan ensured that Reading topped their EFL Trophy group with a comfortable home victory over Arsenal U21s.
Despite languishing at the bottom of League One, Ruben Selles’ side continued their strong showing in the cup competitions and managed to dispatch the young Gunners side to make their way through to the knockout stages.
In a game full of goals, the Royals came out on top as Ehibhatiomhan’s brace was added to with goals from Caylan Vickers, Harvey Knibbs and Sam Smith
Ruben Selles made 11 changes following Reading’s disastrous late defeat at Shrewsbury Town on the weekend.
Joel Peraira took his place between the sticks, while Tom Holmes was selected to captain the side which also included a start for young forward Jayden Wareham.
Former Reading U23s coach Mehmet Ali named a strong eleven for the Gunners which included first-team regulars Fabio Vieira and Reiss Nelson.
Vieira, who arrived at Arsenal from Porto in June 2022 cost the north London club around £30million. The 23-year-old has struggled for regular game time and was sent off late in Arsenal’s Premier League win over Burnley on Saturday.
With two natural left-backs on the field, it was Nesta Guinness-Walker who was deployed at right-back, while Matty Carson was chosen at left-back and Mbengue started in central midfield alongside Michael Craig.
Reading had the first chance of the match presented to them when Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan intercepted a sloppy back pass and struck wide from a tight angle.
Arsenal’s first attempt on goal came from Charles Sagoe when he drove from the right wing, cut onto his left and his a tame shot that proved a simple stop for Pereira.
Ehibhatiomhan scored the opening goal of the night with his next chance as Caylan Vickers and Nesta Guinness-Walker combined before an attempted tackle fell in Ehibhatiomhan’s path for him to stroke past Ovie Ejeheri.
Pereira made a fine stop as the Gunners looked to respond through their two most recognised players.
Vieira and Nelson worked in tandem before the latter had his strike palmed over the bar by the keeper.
Reading managed to hit Arsenal with a clinical counter from a corner as Paul Mukairu played the ball in for Caylan Vickers who had time to steady himself in the box before he lashed the ball into the far corner.
The visitors had chances with Sagoe and Nelson before they eventually did hit back to make it 2-1.
Khayon Edwards was felled in the box as he tried to skip past Pereira, leaving the referee to point to the penalty spot.
Vieira stepped up and sent Pereira the wrong way to convert from 12 yards out.
Reading quickly restored their two-goal buffer when Michael Craig stole the ball from Reuell Walters on the edge of the box and picked out Ehibhatiomhan who was left unmarked and was able to notch his second goal of the game.
Reading’s lead was cut to just one early in the second-half after some exceptional wing play from Nelson saw him get the byline, skip past Guinness-Walker and put the ball on a plate for Edwards to tuck home from a few yards out.
The hosts had the chance to add their fourth of the evening when Mukairu was fouled in the box and Reading were awarded a penalty.
Looking to net his hat-trick, Ehibhatiomhan stepped up but saw his low effort turned behind by Ejeheri.
Selles added some experience to his side for the final half an hour as Harvey Knibbs and Lewis Wing replaced Guinness-Walker and Wareham.
Knibbs made a quick impact and built on from his hat-trick against Swindon earlier in the competition by smacking the ball past Ejeheri on the half volley.
The Gunners thought they had found their third goal of the night when they converted on the rebound only to be denied by the offside flag.
Another double Reading switch saw Sam Smith and Clinton Mola come on for Ehibhatiomhan and Mbengue.
Mola had an opportunity to score his first Reading goal when he glided past a defender to break into the box, cut onto his left and saw his effort turned away at the near post.
A third penalty of the night was awarded when Nelson once again got the better of Reading in the box to cause danger and was tripped by Harlee Dean.
However, this time Vieira was unable to convert as Periera flew to his right to keep his spot kick out.
The entertaining spectacle continued with chances at both ends in an open contest, with Vickers going close to finding his second of the night.
Arsenal were reduced to 10 players late in the game when Ayden Heaven was given his marching orders for putting in a crunching tackle on Knibbs.
The final goal of the game was scored by Smith who unleashed a shot past the keeper to add a fifth Reading goal.
Reading: Pereira, Guinness-Walker, Holmes, Dean, Carson, Mbengue, Craig, Vickers,
Subs: Button, Mola, Knibbs, Smith, Wing, Wellens, Ahmed
Arsenal U21s: Ejeheri, Walters, Foran, Monlouis, Heaven, Ibrahim, Henry-Francis, Sagoe Jr, Nelson, Edwards
Subs: Hillson, Nichols, Kacurri, Azeez, Gower, Oulad M’Hand,
Goals: Ehibhatiomhan 13’, 35’ Vickers 23’, Fabio Vieira 33’ (pen), Edwards 53’, Knibbs 68’, Smith 90+5′