Reading FC Women will have to wait to learn their fate as to whether they will qualify for the next stage of the Continental Tyres Cup, having been defeated on penalties against Liverpool on Wednesday evening.
Their final group game ended 1-1 against the Reds at Adams Park, and a draw in the group stages – much like the Checkatrade Trophy – means that the game goes straight to penalties, with the winning team picking up a bonus point on top of their point for finishing all square after 90 minutes.
Rachel Furness’s goal for Reading was cancelled out quickly by Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, and then Remi Allen had a spot-kick saved in the shoot-out.
Having faced each other in the league just three days earlier, the Royals knew that a win in 90 minutes would secure passage to the Quarter-Final stage in the cup competition.
Kelly Chambers made three changes going into the game as Grace Moloney, Maz Pacheco and Gemma Davison were replaced by Rachael Laws, Becky Jane and Molly Bartrip. And Laws was called into action with less than ten minutes played, comfortably holding former Royal Kirsty Linnett's tame half-volley.
It was pretty much one-way traffic for the rest of the half as the Royals did everything but score. Jo Potter's teasing delivery just evaded Furness, who had beaten the offside trap with a well-timed run.
Reading were getting closer by the minute and Liverpool goalkeeper Fran Kitching was called into action to hold Natasha Harding's curling effort from out wide.
The best chances of the half came in quick succession through Brooke Chaplen. She poked Fara Williams' cross wide of the near post. Minutes later, the forward drifted a shot towards goal which came back off the crossbar.
The hosts began the second half much like the ended the first; on the front foot and looking to break the deadlock. Williams' shot came back off the crossbar within minutes of the restart, and then Natasha Harding saw her fierce strike tipped over the bar.
Eventually, midway through the second period, the Reading pressure paid off as Furness hooked a cross into a dangerous area and it found its way into the far corner, having somehow evaded everyone.
The visitors' response to going behind was swift and efficient as they drew level less than two minutes later. A ball over the Royals back four was latched onto by Sweetman-Kirk, who kept her composure to lob the ball over Laws.
Laws was to thank for keeping the score at one-apiece as she got down well to save at the feet of substitute Jess Clarke in second half stoppage time.
Having finished 1-1 after 90 minutes, penalties was to decide who gets an extra point, with both sides already gaining one for the draw.
And Fran Kitching was the hero for Liverpool, making the only save to deny Allen from 12 yards for Reading’s third kick. Sophie Bradley-Auckland tucked away Liverpool’s fifth, earning a 5-4 penalty win and a bonus point.
Reading still top the five-team group on seven points, but there are two games left to play – Everton, currently bottom, face both Manchester United and Liverpool in the coming weeks.
Full-time: Reading FC Women 1-1 Liverpool Women (4-5 on pens)
Reading FC Women: Laws;, Jane, Williams, Bartrip, Pearce (c), Furness, Allen, Harding, Estcourt (Davison 74), Chaplen, Potter.
Unused subs: Moloney, Pacheco, Woodham, Harries.
Goal: Furness (64).
Liverpool Women: Kitching, Daniels, Bradley-Auckland (c), Rodgers, Robe, Matthews, Murray, Coombs (Fahey 62), Linett (Clarke 45), Sweetman-Kirk (Thomas 81), Little.
Unused subs: Preuss, Roberts, Murray.
Goal: Sweetman-Kirk (66).
Referee: Lisa Benn