Narrow defeat for Spirited Royals
Reading lose 4-3 in a thriller against Man City
Togetherness and character shone through in such a way that ensured Reading took league leaders Manchester City to the sword in a dramatic match, despite finding themselves 4-1 down early in the second half. It was a great advert for women's football and showed the Royals' true credentials in a tough game against one of the nation's best.
After a three-week International break, the Royals ensured they needed no time to find their rhythm by racing into a third-minute lead. Remi Allen's flick-on header found Brooke Chaplen, who got the better of the City defence to race clear and finish past goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck.
The visitors grew into the game and after some crucial blocks from both Kirsty Pearce and Jo Potter, they levelled inside 15 minutes through Nikita Parris. Jill Scott's searching pass found the forward on the shoulder of Pearce, who then controlled it beautifully before slotting in off the post.
It was one-way traffic after City's equaliser with constant pressure from the visitors. Steph Houghton's free-kick was well dealt with by Grace Moloney, turning it behind.
Fara Williams tried her luck from outside the box just before Remi Allen missed a golden opportunity from right in front of goal, having latched onto Rakel Honnudottir's header. The midfielder steered an effort just wide from an unmarked position.
Manchester City then punished the Royals for missing chances whilst on top by racing into a 3-1 lead in the matter of minutes as Parris completed her hat-trick. Her second of the match came from a Demi Stokes cutback which she finished from an unmarked position. The hat-trick goal then came in the 39th minute as Parris collected a threaded pass at her feet before racing clear and dispatching confidently past Moloney.
The visitors started the second half brightly and would have had a fourth had Moloney not saved Melissa Lawley's shot from distance. However, they did get that elusive fourth through full-back Demi Stokes on the 53rd minute. Nikita Parris played her through and Stokes made no mistake in front of goal.
Reading did manage to pull one back from the penalty spot just after the hour mark. Allen was pulled down in the area and Fara Williams sent Roebuck the wrong way from 12 yards.
The Royals began throwing everything at City from then on and were unlucky not to create many clear cut chances. However, they did cut the deficit even further through Kirsty Pearce with under 5 minutes remaining, the skipper slid the ball home at the far post after a Roebuck save.
The visitors found themselves camped deep inside their own half until the final whistle. Molly Bartrip's header was well held by Roebuck while Williams' free-kick just cleared the crossbar in stoppage time.
After the game manager Kelly Chambers said:
"Going into half-time 3-1 down was disappointing because I think we controlled a lot of the first half. There were just individual errors and defensively, a few mistakes. But to go in 3-1 down and come out and show bravery and the confidence they did was fantastic."
Captain Kirsty Pearce said:
"We pushed until the end. Unfortunately we couldn't get that goal. We've got to look at the first half really; conceding three goals quickly. We just had that period in the first half where we need to be better."
Reading: Moloney; Bartrip, Pearce (C), Potter, Harding, Bailey, Allen, Moore (Pacheco 70), Williams, Chaplen (Furness 85) Honnudottir (Bruton 63)
Subs not used: Jane, Davison, Howard, Laws
Scorers: Chaplen (4) Williams (62, Pen) Pearce (87)
Man City: Roebuck; Stokes, Beatie, Houghton, McManus, Scott, Walsh, Lawley (Recnie 73), Wullaert (Bonner 88), Parris, Stanway
Subs not used: Bardsley, Hemp, Weir, Campbell, Emslie
Scorers: Parris (13,36,39) Stokes (54)
Yellow cards: McManus, Parris
Referee: Tom Reeves