The decision of Reading's manager, Steve Coppell, to leave his new American striker, Bobby Convey, on the bench proved a winner as his regular attack force of Nicky Forster and Dave Kitson, with a goal each, did just enough to repel an eager Brighton, who suffered their first-ever defeat at the Madejski Stadium.
Having seen their play-off ambitions scuppered only towards the close of last season, Reading were offered what looked like a comfortable opening match against the newly promoted Seagulls, who brought their usual noisy following with them.
With the game only 15 seconds old, those fans were celebrating a spectacular goal. It was scored by Brighton's flamboyant new striker, Maheta Molango, a free transfer from Atletico Madrid.
Molango is a Swiss-born Italian citizen who plays his international football for the Congo. He does it well, too, as Reading found to their cost.
Sloppy defensive work by their captain, Adie Williams, and Graeme Murty saw the ball break to Molango to the left of the goal. He controlled it deftly before side-footing past Marcus Hahnemann. Stunned they most certainly were, but Reading struck back brilliantly and were level with less than two minutes played. Hahnemann's goal-kick into the Brighton penalty area was headed square by Forster to Kitson who drove it hard into the net.
Molango was more than adequate as a stand-in for the suspended Leon Knight, and might have won a penalty when he went down under a rather desperate tackle from Williams. However, the referee was not impressed.
With the centre of the Brighton defensive line well-marshalled by Danny Cullip and Guy Butters, chances of progress for Reading were few. Most of the opportunities came from the enterprise on the right of Glen Little, last season's loan man from Burnley who has now made the move official. One of Little's centres, headed back by Andy Hughes, was reached by the fist of Michel Kuipers fractionally in front of Forster's head.
Having lost Charlie Oatway with a back injury, Brighton suffered further misfortune by conceding a second just before the interval. Little was the provider with another testing centre, which was laid off by Forster for James Harper to shoot inside the post, with Kuipers reacting late, but because he was unsighted.
Reading continued to find most of their inspiration from the right in the second half and one deceptive cross from Little struck the inside of a Brighton upright before it rebounded conveniently into the arms of the grateful Kuipers. Brighton's defence was again at fault when a Reading free-kick was allowed to reach Kitson at the far post. Surprised by such laxity, he scooped the chance over.
Just short of the hour Reading extended their lead, and were again grateful for poor defending. Brighton left-back Dan Harding's attempt to clear was so delayed that Forster managed to charge it down and did well to score.
Within four minutes Brighton's efforts were rewarded at the end where their supporters were massed. The 17-year-old substitute Jake Robinson accepted a cross from the right, then stepped neatly round a tackle and struck it with confidence from half a dozen yards.
Brighton came through the testing conditions rather more impressively in the closing stages. First, another substitute, Nathan Jones, bent a free-kick narrowly wide and then Robinson, in a similar position to his goal effort, scuffed the chance of an equaliser.Reuse content