Reading FC Women ended the unparalleled year of 2020 with an impressive 3-1 away win against Brighton & Hove Albion to enter the Christmas break with three well deserved points.
Two first-half goals from Player of the Match Jess Fishlock came either side of a converted spot-kick from Brighton’s Inessa Kaagman, before Rachel Rowe put the icing on the Christmas cake with a goal in stoppage time to seal the 3-1 victory for Kelly Chambers’ Royals.
Both sides were hungry to end the year with their third league win, and it showed throughout the contest as it began as scrappy and fast-paced as it remained.
The scoring opened just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark, as Jess Fishlock picked up on a loose ball from the Brighton defence and drove forward towards the home-side’s area. She had Natasha Harding in support to her left, but Fishlock went alone and fired a low, hard shot to Cecile Fiskerstrand’s right to open the scoring.
Reading had a brief spell in complete control as they looked to ride the wave of momentum following their first goal, but less than five minutes later, Brighton broke into the box, where Deanna Cooper stretched for the ball and brought down Ellie Brazil, meaning the home-side were awarded a penalty. Ingssa Kaagman stepped up and converted coolly to Moloney’s right to pull the home-side level.
It was Brighton that went on to ride the momentum as they took control for a spell, looking to get in front, but couldn’t produce the quality needed before Reading composed themselves and took back control of the half.
Skipper Harding was replaced by Lauren Bruton after receiving treatment on the field for a potential hamstring injury. Fishlock then went down too and received treatment, after a clash with Guemmin Lee.
However, Fishlock could not be kept down and in the 44th minute, Reading capitalised on another mistake by Brighton when Lily Woodham dispossessed her player and put a cross in, which ended up bouncing in front of Fishlock. The Welsh international took her time – and a touch – before firing into the back of the Brighton net to ensure Reading went into the break ahead.
Half-time: Brighton & Hove Albion 1 – 2 Reading FC Women
The home-side came out all guns blazing in the second-half, Hope Powell clearly doing a good job of whipping her side up during half-time, as Felicity Gibbons forced a great save from Moloney mere seconds after the half began.
Reading had their moments too, as Emma Harries used her pace to get past her markers constantly, as Fishlock remained a threat throughout, coming mere inches away from getting her hat-trick, but her shot going just the wrong side of the post.
Brighton turned up the intensity and began frantically searching for the equaliser. They came close through Denise O’Sullivan and began forcing corners in what seemed to be heading to a frighteningly familiar scenario for Reading.
However, any worries were firmly put in the rear-view mirror on the ninety minute mark, as Fishlock strode towards the Brighton area, as she did so often in the afternoon, and laid a ball off to her fellow Welsh international, substitute Rachel Rowe. Rowe met the perfectly times pass and chipped over the advancing Brighton keeper. Her shot dinked off the post and rolled just behind the line before the ball came back out again. There was a moment of confusion as the Royals – and Rowe herself – didn’t know whether the ball had crossed the line, but the referee indicated the goal stood and Reading signed off the 2020 with the victory and a fantastic three points on the road.
Full-time: Brighton & Hove Albion 1 – 3 Reading FC Women
Brighton & Hove Albion Women: Fiskerstrand, Gibbons, Bowman, Le Tissier, Whealan, Guemmin, O’Sullivan, Stott (Kerkdijk 76’), Brazil, Williams, Kaagman (Simpkins 86’).
Substitutes not used: Walsh, Connelly, Green, Jarrett, Rance, Barton.
Goals: Kaagman (22’)
Reading FC Women: Moloney, Leine, Cooper, Bartrip, Woodham, James, Fishlock, Williams (Rowe 66’), Harding (Bruton ’29), Eikeland, Harries.
Substitutes not used: Nayler, Roberts, Childerhouse, Carter.
Goals: Fishlock (17’, 44’) Rowe (90+2)
Yellow Cards: Leine (23’) Bartrip (61’) Carter (86’)