In most encounters between Chelsea and Reading, the Blues would handily start it off with a goal from Fran Kirby. The former Royals player loves to score against the side, and thus guarantee we would bring the three points back home.
A tiring 0-0 draw to Juventus midweek for the Champions League group stage at Kingsmeadow saw Kirby rested, as a bench option instead of starting against Reading. At the beginning it seemed we would not really miss her presence with Chelsea dominating ball retention and Reading forced into their defensive third. But soon we would be proven wrong as Deanne Rose opened the score in the hosts’ favour. 1-0 to Reading, four minutes into the match, to astound Chelsea and the rest of the Women’s Super League.
That was the perfect setup to Reading, who could now sit back and protect their lead in the best way they could. Chelsea found some good chances via Sam Kerr and Millie Bright, but those were either not heading goalwards or blocked by an opposing player.
Emma Hayes quickly headed down the Madejski Stadium tunnel, with likely plenty to say to her players. Changes were in need not just in their approach to the game, but also in the selection of players on the pitch as things were not working in our favour.
From the half, we got Pernille Harder, Fran Kirby and Guro Reiten in to turn it around. Their entrance immediately increased the pressure on Reading’s defence, who simply could not make it past their half outside of goal kicks.
But once that initial pressure diminished, Reading began to grow into the second half into more offensive forays. Even if not effective in looking for goalscoring chances, it was a good way to remove danger from their back and waste precious minutes to Chelsea.
Chelsea soon returned to pressuring Reading, forcing more blocks and interventions from goalkeeper Grace Moloney. That was enough to see them through with a victory, being the second team to beat the Blues this season after the 3-2 loss to Arsenal to start the WSL season back in September.
- Plenty of rotation in midfield and attack from the lineup that faced Juventus last Wednesday. We also see a change in goalkeeping, with Zecira Musovic in place of Ann-Katrin Berger.
- Subs are Pernille Harder for Beth England, Fran Kirby for Drew Spence, Guro Reiten for Jonna Andersson, Niamh Charles for Jess Carter, and Ji So-yun for Jessie Fleming.
- An early goal, and Reading can simply go tortoise mode.
- Scheduling has certainly not helped with keeping the fitness level required to perform at a high level across competitions. But this was not a good effort by the girls today, and by Emma Hayes who might have underrated the danger brought by the WSL’s fifth-placed team on a four-match — now extended to five — unbeaten run in the competition.
- Next up: Wolfsburg away in our last Champions League group stage match, with Chelsea needing only a draw to lock in a playoff spot.