Reading FC Women played their part in a mouth-watering seven-goal thriller against Manchester City Women – but it was the visitors who took the points at Adams Park.
It was a great advert for the women’s game, in which Reading showed grit and determination, but the result went the other way as the Citizens took a 4-3 victory.
It was Reading who struck first. After a three-week International break, the Royals ensured they needed no time to find their rhythm by racing into a third-minute lead. Remi Allen's flick-on header found Brooke Chaplen, who got the better of the City defence to race clear and finish past goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck.
The visitors grew into the game and after some crucial blocks from both Kirsty Pearce and Jo Potter, they levelled inside 15 minutes through Nikita Parris. Jill Scott's searching pass found the forward on the shoulder of Pearce, who then controlled it beautifully before slotting in off the post.
It was one-way traffic after City's equaliser with constant pressure from City. Steph Houghton's free-kick was well dealt with by Grace Moloney, turning it behind.
Fara Williams tried her luck from outside the box just before Remi Allen missed a golden opportunity from right in front of goal, having latched onto Rakel Hönnudóttir’s header. The midfielder steered an effort just wide from an unmarked position.
Manchester City then punished the Royals for missing chances whilst on top by racing into a 3-1 lead in the matter of minutes as Parris completed her hat-trick. Her second of the match came from a Demi Stokes cutback which she finished from an unmarked position. The hat-trick goal then came in the 39th minute as Parris collected a threaded pass at her feet before racing clear and dispatching confidently past Moloney.
The visitors started the second half brightly and would have had a fourth had Moloney not saved Melissa Lawley's shot from distance. However, they did get that elusive fourth through full-back Demi Stokes on the 53rd minute. Parris was provider this time; she played Stokes through, who made no mistake in front of goal.
Reading did manage to pull one back from the penalty spot just after the hour mark. Allen was pulled down in the area and Williams sent Roebuck the wrong way from 12 yards.
The Royals began throwing everything at City from then on and were unlucky not to create many clear-cut chances. However, they did cut the deficit even further through Kirsty Pearce with under five minutes remaining; the skipper slid the ball home at the far post after a Roebuck save.
The visitors found themselves camped deep inside their own half until the final whistle. Molly Bartrip's header was well held by Roebuck while Williams' free-kick just cleared the crossbar in stoppage time.
Togetherness and character shone through in such a way that ensured Reading took league leaders Manchester City to the wire in a dramatic game; the Royals showed their credentials in a tough game against one of the nation's best.
After the game manager Kelly Chambers said: “Going into half-time 3-1 down was disappointing because I think we controlled a lot of the first half. There were just individual errors and defensively, a few mistakes. But to go in 3-1 down and come out and show bravery and the confidence they did was fantastic.”
Captain Kirsty Pearce added: "We pushed until the end. Unfortunately we couldn't get that goal. We've got to look at the first half really; conceding three goals quickly. We just had that period in the first half where we need to be better.”
Full-time: Reading FC Women 3-4 Manchester City Women
Reading FC Women: Moloney, Bartrip, Pearce (c), Potter, Harding, Bailey, Allen, Moore (Pacheco 70), Williams, Chaplen (Furness 85), Hönnudóttir (Bruton 63).
Unused subs: Jane, Davison, Howard, Laws.
Goals: Chaplen (4), Williams (62 pen), Pearce (87).
Manchester City Women: Roebuck, Stokes, Beatie, Houghton, McManus, Scott, Walsh, Lawley (Recnie 73), Wullaert (Bonner 88), Parris, Stanway.
Unused subs: Bardsley, Hemp, Weir, Campbell, Emslie.
Goals: Parris (13, 36, 39), Stokes (54).