Reading FC Women are through to their first ever quarter-final of the Continental Cup, recording a 4-0 win against London Bees at Madejski Stadium in front of a record crowd of 2,248.
The result takes them top of their group, ahead of Arsenal, with two games remaining – and they can’t be caught by third-placed Millwall, who they meet in their last group game.
The Bees put up firm resistance and managed to go into the break goalless – but second-half strikes from Kirsty Pearce, Brooke Chaplen, Rachel Rowe and Rachel Furness condemned the London club to defeat.
Kirsty Linnett was the first to go close – she shot into the side netting early on after some jinking work by Fara Williams. Then Remi Allen struck from the best part of 30 yards, seeing her shot sail marginally over.
Those were two of the best efforts in a first period where Nicola Hobbs wasn’t overly tested – in fact the visitors could have taken a lead into the interval when Paula Howells broke and fed Lucy Loomes, whose shot was straight at Grace Moloney.
But the Royals struck first through Pearce – it was a delightful low free-kick from Williams on the right flank which the defender was able to delicately flick through the crowd and into the far corner.
And before long, it was two – albeit the decision wasn’t immediately clear. Furness clashed heads when she attacked Jo Potter’s ball into the box, allowing Chaplen to rise above the goalkeeper and follow in… in the confusion and while head injuries were being treated, eventually it emerged that the goal had been given.
Williams came close to adding a third when she received in space in the left of the box, only to find Hobbs at full stretch to make a save. But when Rowe received in a similar position, as the ball was worked swiftly upfield, she jinked and lashed in to put the game beyond doubt.
Furness put some sheen on the victory with a goal in the penultimate minute, lashing home with true intent when teed up by sub Tamsin de Bunsen.
Full-time: Reading FC Women 4-0 London Bees
Reading FC Women: Moloney, Jane, Green (Rowe 64), Van den Berg, Pearce, Allen, Potter, Williams, Furness, Chaplen (De Bunsen 79), Linnett (Bruton 61).
Unused subs: Earps, Scott, Clifford.
London Bees: Hobbs, Weston, Fogarty (Rolandsen 65), Toussaint, Lea, Lane, Loomes (Clark 76), Howells, Beckett, Anderson (Lalani 78), O'Leary.
Unused sub: Fisher.