Leeds United 0 Reading 1

EARLY-season sparkle at Elland Road seems light years away.

A few weeks ago, Leeds United were playing with flair and pace.

In recent games they have been pedestrian and negative - characteristics they showed in abundance as they lost their unbeaten home record to modest Reading.

The Royals arrived in the Sky Bet Championship’s bottom three, low on confident and winless in six games.

Leeds, even after successive away thumpings at Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday, were expected to get back on track after the international break but looked low on confidence themselves from the start.

The Whites lacked the intensity required to win a typical scrappy Championship battle which, in truth, neither side deserved to win.

Only in the final few minutes did the match lift itself above the mundane.

Substitute Mo Barrow, who failed to make an impact during a loan spell at Elland Road last term, scored on 85 minutes, and Vito Mannone saved Pablo Hernandez’s stoppage-time penalty to inflict a third straight defeat on the early pacesetters.

It was not Hernandez’s day.

The Spaniard looked as though he had been fouled in the build-up to Barrow’s crisp finish and got himself booked for his protests.

All that may have still swirling around in his mind as Samuel Saiz was brought down in the area in stoppage time, and Hernandez’s weak spot-kick was easily saved by Mannone.

United were unable to dominate from the off as Reading slowed the game in the early stages, preventing the Whites from getting up a head of steam.

The visitors defended from the front and Leeds struggled to get the ball out from the back and gain any momentum.

It cried out for a tactical change, with further doubts whether Saiz and Hernandez - both talented ball players - can be accommodated in the same side when the going gets tough.

With a trip to in-form Bristol City coming up, coach Thomas Christiansen may have to make a radical change to his line-up.

He made a big call for the Reading game, dropping goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald after recent shaky displays and was rewarded with a good display by replacement Andy Lonergan.

His handling was assured, and two fine saves denied Sone Aluko and Barrow, while his opposite number Mannone, well protected by his defence, had little to do until it really mattered in added-on time.

Christiansen insisted Leeds, who only upped their game after falling behind, deserved at least a point.

“We created more opportunities than Reading in the second half and deserved much more than what we got, but when the ball doesn’t go in, it’s difficult to win.”

Leeds United: Lonergan, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Beradi, Roofe (Sakho 66), Phillips, O’Kane, Hernandex, Saiz, Lasogga (Grot 76). Substitutes (not used): Wiedwald, Pennington, Cibicki, Klich. Cautions: Saiz, O’Kane, Beradi, Hernandez, Ayling.

Reading: Mannone, Gunter, Ilori, Moore, Bacuna, Van den Berg, McCleary (Clement 90+3), Edwards, Beerens (Barrow 65), Aluko (Kelly 70), Bodvarsson. Cautions: Van den Berg, Barrow.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson.

Attendance: 33,900.