Reading FC Women begin the New Year against reigning FA Women’s Super League champions Chelsea, who visit RG2 on Sunday.
Chambers’ side have had a slightly inconsistent start to the season, despite performing consistently on the field throughout. Three wins, three losses and four draws sees the Royals sitting in 6th place in the league, just a point behind Everton. Standout performances have come in the form of a 1-1- draw against last season’s runners-up Manchester City, as well as impressive 3-1 victories against Aston Villa and – in their final match of 2020 – Brighton & Hove Albion. Even in draws to Tottenham, Everton and Bristol City, Chambers’ side had the better chances, dominated play throughout and deserved to walk away with more than the shared points.
Current champions Chelsea have started the 2020-21 season in solid form. They are currently unbeaten and have two games in hand on Manchester United and Arsenal. The only points Emma Hayes’ side have dropped have been in 1-1 away draws against those two sides currently above them in the table. Ten different players have contributed to Chelsea’s 23 league goals that have come from just eight outings. Nine of those came against Bristol City with nine different players appearing on the score sheet that afternoon. Sam Kerr, current captain of the Australian national side, leads the way with 7 Women’s Super League goals to date.
Perhaps the best-known recent addition to the Chelsea squad is 28-year-old Pernille Harder who became the world’s most expensive female footballer after signing from Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg. Harder is captain of the Denmark national side for whom she has made some 123 appearances scoring 64 goals. She won the UEFA Women's Player of the Year Award in both 2018 and 2020. Additionally, joining from Bayern Munich, midfielder Melanie Leupolz has 70 caps for Germany with 11 goals. Another midfielder, 22-year-old Jessie Fleming, has 77 caps for Canada making her full international debut aged just 15 years old. Finally, Chelsea recently brought in Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic on a two-and-a-half year deal. Previously with FC Rosengard, the 24-year old is a full Swedish international.
Reading took on Chelsea twice last season; once in the group stages of the Continental Cup in December and once a few weeks later in the league. Reading needed a win to top Group D, but a draw would have been good enough to qualify in second place just behind Chelsea, unless West Ham could beat Crystal Palace by 9 goals. The Royals decided not to leave anything up to chance and put on a solid display against Emma Hayes’ Chelsea. Jo Potter scored from a free-kick on the quarter-of-an-hour mark, before chances were had at either end of the pitch before half-time. Former Reading keeper Rachel Laws pulled off some fantastic saves for the Royals, but Chelsea managed to get the equaliser with 25 minutes of the game remaining with a fantastic long-range effort from a familiar face in the now Reading defender Deanna Cooper. The full-time result was 1-1 and the game went onto penalties to determine who would take an additional point. As West Ham were several goals up against Palace – eventually going on to win 7-0 – Reading went on to put qualification in their own hands and win 4-2 on penalties. Royals’ scorers came in the form of Fara Williams, Brooke Chaplen, Millie Farrow and Remi Allen. Rachel Laws first denied Beth England by tipping her shot onto the post and then goalscorer Cooper whose spot kick she saved to guarantee victory in the shootout and qualification to the Quarter-Finals of the Continental Cup.
The WSL meeting between the clubs last season took place at Kingsmeadow on Jan 5th, 2020. It was looking good for the Royals when Fara Williams gave them the lead on the quarter hour mark. Grace Moloney’s red card though shortly afterwards made it an uphill battle and the home side took advantage with strikes from Beth England, Guro Reiten and Erin Cuthbert securing them a 3-1 victory. The last two WSL meetings at Adams Park were both closely fought encounters. In season 2017-18 a last minute own goal by the visitors’ Magdalena Eriksson tied up an eventful game at 2-2. Remi Allen had given Kelly Chambers’ side the lead, but the Londoners had replied through Karen Carney and Eniola Aluko. That season’s fixture at Kingsmeadow also ended 2-2. A Brooke Chaplen penalty and a Fara Williams goal had put the Royals in the ascendancy only for second half goals from Jonna Andersson and former Reading star Fran Kirby to salvage a point for Emma Hayes’ side. At Adams Park in 2018-19 both Natasha Harding and Fara Williams were on target for the Royals but a late strike from Beth England earned Chelsea a 3-2 victory. That season a solitary Ji So-Yun goal separated the sides in the meeting at Kingsmeadow.
Reading FC Women v Chelsea Women | Sunday 10th January | 2pm | Madejski Stadium | Watch Live on the FA Player