Goals from substitutes Kirsty Pearce and Rakel Hönnudóttir earned Reading FC Women a 2-1 win against their Birmingham City counterparts on Sunday – and a place in the hat of the SSE Women’s FA Cup Quarter-Final.
It is the first time since the 2015-16 instalment of the competition that our team have made it this far – the draw for the final eight teams is due to take place on Monday evening.
Both teams arrived in the Fifth Round on a good vein of form; the Royals had been emphatic 13-0 winners against Keynsham Town at the previous stage, while new Birmingham manager Marta Tejedor was undefeated after beating Chelsea and Yeovil in her opening two games.
And it was the Blues who threated first when former Royals Emma Follis nearly pounced on the end of Lucy Quinn’s driven cross but Molly Bartrip’s out-stretchedlkeg cleared the danger. Moments later it was Jo Potter’s turn to defend, intercepting Quinn’s attempted through ball, which would have left Follis with only Grace Moloney to beat.
After 13 minutes of play Moloney brilliantly denied Lucy Quinn from giving the visitors the lead, flying off her line to take the ball from the forward’s feet in what turned out to be the biggest chance of the first half. At the other end Remi Allen came closest for the Royals after trying an improvised finish from a very tight angle with an overhead kick, which was narrowly off-target.
Both teams opted to make a change during the break with Kirsty Pearce coming on to replace Jade Moore and Lucy Quinn making way for Ellen White.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 68th minute as Pearce found herself in space in the Blues’ box; the centre-back expertly cushioning her header into the net from Fara Williams’ brilliantly lofted ball from a deep free-kick.
But Blues’ substitute Ellen White had her impact on the game as she poked the ball around ‘keeper Grace Moloney – who had already committed to winning the ball – and consequently brought White down in the box. Defender Aoife Mannion then stepped up to convert the penalty, coolly slotting the ball into the bottom left corner.
With the game now alight, it was Blues captain Kerys Harrop who had a golden opportunity to put her team ahead after Lucy Staniforth’s cross, however the centre-half put the ball just over Moloney’s bar.
The 81st minute saw Chambers make her second change of the game with new signing Hönnudóttir coming on to replace Chaplen in attack. The Icelander, who netted twice against Keynsham the previous weekend, nearly made a dream start as she pounced on Williams’ lobbed through ball, but rifled her attempt just over the crossbar.
Hönnudóttir had just moments to wait for her next opportunity, latching on to another clever through ball to take her one on one with Hampton. The Icelandic international showed ice-cold composure before firing the ball into the bottom right corner, transcending the Royals faithful into a state of delirium.
In the closing stages of the Fara Williams, who had troubled the Birmingham defence throughout the game then came close to adding a third for the Royals after Lauren Bruton slotted her through on goal, but the midfielder’s attempt went wide of the post. Not that it mattered; the place in the Quarter-Final was secure!
Speaking after the game Rakel Hönnudóttir said; “It’s an amazing feeling, coming into the team and helping them in the best way I can, and today I was able to do that. It was a strong team performance; the coaches were happy with our performance today and if we play like that we can stand up to any team.”
The Royals will now look forward to a game against one of the following teams left in the competition: Liverpool, Durham, Chelsea, Manchester United, West Ham, Manchester City or Aston Villa; a place in the final four the prize for the winner.
Full-time: Reading FC Women 2-1 Birmingham City Ladies