With the ‘Dubai-gate’ revelations, postponements and independent tribunals, it’s been a week that most women’s football clubs and fans alike will be wanting to forget and it’s safe to say that Reading versus Chelsea, the only surviving Women’s Super League game, certainly helped the cause.
In a schedule that lacked fixtures on a cold Sunday afternoon, this one more than made up for it and frustratingly, it wasn’t the Royals who reaped the reward as the West London visitors schooled them in a calm and collected 5-0 victory.
Fancy a bit of salt for those wounds Reading fans? Four of those goals were from Reading born, former Royals player Fran Kirby, whilst Ji struck in the 86th minute to seal the deal. And not your typical four goals either as Kirby nabbed herself a perfect hat-trick in those scoring efforts, with a right foot, left foot, header combo, only the third WSL star to do so.
The first 15 minutes looked fairly evenly matched between the sides, with end-to-end football and Reading showing some promise as they confidently dispossessed Chelsea in multiple instances, with Grace Moloney making a vital save in the 8th minute to deny Australian Sam Kerr an early goal, admittedly offside but still an impressive, confidence booster from the Reading keeper.
The change came as soon as Kirby netted her first goal in the 16th minute and from then on Chelsea seemed to turn it up several notches and it was clinical, quick passes from there on out, as she slotted another home less than ten minutes later. Tash Harding attempted a lob on Chelsea keeper Ann-Katrin Berger but she remained unfazed and the game’s fate was almost certainly confirmed when a Chelsea free-kick found Kerr at the post and she slotted it neatly into the path of Kirby who headed it home just before the half time whistle.
Kirby’s goals were duly deserved but it can’t be ignored that had the Reading defence looked a little more lively in the box and tracked her runs, both headers could’ve been denied.
There’s not much to be said about the Reading performance in reality, a somewhat lacklustre display with little energy or drive from the squad. It felt a lot like they couldn’t find any real rhythm within the game, with much of the squad seeming out of sorts and out of position.
The Royals should’ve capitalised on set pieces, but Chelsea were able to deny any free-kicks and intercept a number of corners, whilst an uncharacteristically poor corner from Fara Williams saw an attempt at the 58th minute hit the side netting. Reading typically play possession football and take striking shots from range but there was virtually none of this. If statistics are to be believed, Reading had zero on target and took a third of the overall shots Chelsea did.
That said, there were some commendable efforts in the Royals squad, Emma Harries continued to look a very exciting prospect, she looks comfortable causing a nuisance for the defence and not afraid to get stuck in, in front of goal. Jess Fishlock, as always, was box to box running and she looked suitably frustrated with the performance, whilst Woodham played well down the left wing.
This game was simply an indication of just why Chelsea are title contenders. Kirby looked absolutely clinical, it’s just a shame it’s not in a Reading shirt! No let up for the Royals, as they face third place Arsenal with a point to prove after that 6-1 defeat in the opening weekend of the Women’s Super League, next weekend.
Reading v Arsenal, 2pm, Sunday 17th January.