The WSL spotlight was on Madejski Stadium as Reading Women FC hosted Chelsea FCW in the league’s only weekend matchup to avoid postponement. Chelsea had several weeks off but were sharp throughout and needed no time to shake off the rust. It was a dominant team display, but Fran Kirby absolutely stole the show.
Kirby scored her first just after the fifteen minute mark. She’d looked lively from the start, linking up with Sam Kerr to put the Reading defense under pressure. Smoke turned to fire in the sixteenth minute when a flicked header from Kerr near midfield left Kirby all alone on goal. She calmly rounded the keeper and fired home the first Chelsea goal of 2021. Moments later, Kirby almost added a second, when her driven shot from outside the box smashed off the far post. She got a bit of help on the second, as Reading’s Emma Mitchell played herself into trouble with an attempted pace played straight to Kirby. Mitchell attempted to win the ball back but Kirby expertly shielded the defender on her hip before chipping a diving Moloney with her left foot. Before the halftime whistle could sound, Kirby had her hat trick. The Blues won a free kick outside the Reading box, where Erin Cuthbert floated a ball behind a high defensive line that Sam Kerr latched onto. Kerr’s floated ball across goal found who else, but Fran Kirby, who headed into a deserted net.
The second half saw more of the same, as Fran Kirby added her fourth, less than ten minutes after the break. If it was surprising to see Kirby score her first header, then the second was a bit shocking. Reiten played a driven cross in from a corner kick where she found Fran Kirby making a near post run. Her resulting header was Giroud-esque, looping across goal into the far corner, leaving Grace Moloney to watch helplessly. More chances would come, but it was in the final five minutes of the match before Chelsea found their fifth. Substitute Ji So-yun displayed some typical fancy footwork, control the ball in a tight area, before smashing home from six yards. The Blues were able to see out the match with a clean sheet, completing their excellent performance on all fronts.
- Starting XI: Lineup: Berger, Andersson (Eriksson 71’), Blundell, Bright, Ingle, Leupolz, Cuthbert (Ji 61’), Charles (Harder 71’), Reiten (Fleming 61’), Kirby, Kerr (England 61’)
- Sophie Ingle starts in a CB pairing with Millie Bright. Though she is more than capable as a CB, it isn’t too often Emma Hayes strays from a Bright-Eriksson partnership.
- Sam Kerr didn’t score, but was a constant threat throughout the match. She picked up assists on two of Fran Kirby’s goals and could easily have scored a few herself.
- Reading worked hard, but were clearly demoralized by halftime. They pressed Chelsea on the ball and worked tirelessly, but the Blues quality on the ball and in front of goal was overwhelming.
- As stunning as Fran Kirby’s performance was, she nearly scored a fifth goal that would have been her best of the lot. She showed every finish in the bag today in a truly world class display.
- Next Up: With the midweek cup match against Manchester City postponed, the Blues next match is next Sunday, January 17th, when they take on league leaders Manchester United at Kingsmeadow.