An FA Cup tie lost but Kelly Chambers' side more than matched their high profile opponents!Reading Women returned to action last weekend in an FA Cup encounter against the best side in the country - and Kelly Chambers' side put in an impressive performance to hold the WSL1 champions until seven minutes from the end of the tie.
On paper, the first test of the season - a cup tie away to a City side that conceded just 4 goals in their undefeated WSL1 title winning season in 2016 - could not have provided a tougher test, but the Royals were still level with their hosts until England international Lucy Bronze found an 83rd minute winner.
To put the contest in some context, City offered a debut to midfielder Carli Lloyd - a two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA Women's World Cup champion with the USA and the 2015 and 2016 FIFA Player of the Year!
In persistent rain, the opening exchanges were scrappy but the Royals showed great character and determination, digging in to hold City's goal threat off until Bronze's effort from just outside the box finally beat the impressive Mary Earps in the Royals goal.
Earps, recently called up by her country, tried to match the performance of Ali Al-Habsi at Hillsborough, making a string of impressive saves including a penalty save from Georgia Stanway just after the hour.
Lauren Bruton came close on a couple of occasions for the Royals, as Chambers' new-look side more than held their own in their first competitive game of the new season - the Spring Series starts for Reading with a clash against Bristol City next month!
Mandy Van Den Berg, Anna Green, Rachel Furness and Brooke Chaplen all earned their Royals bow in the cup defeat and Chambers was delighted with their performances after the game.
"They put in a great shift and have already gelled really well into the team. I think they’ve shown in their performances and how hard they’ve worked together already, it looks really promising and there is a lot to be excited about.
"I thought the whole team's performance was outstanding; for us to be nine weeks into our pre-season and to play a game like this and perform the way that we did - I think it's excellent from every single player and I’m excited for the start of the Spring Series.
"We also saw today just how important a goalkeeper is to a team. Mary Earps was outstanding, she made some fantastic saves today and kept us in the games at times. Mary was outstanding.”
The Royals will now wait until April 22nd for their next competitive game, where they will face newly-promoted Bristol City Women away at Ashton Gate.