Reading FC Women were on the right side of a five-goal score-line at home to Brighton & Hove Albion, as the battle for a sixth place finish in the league heats up thanks to a 3-2 win.
An astonishing first-half finish for Brighton saw Reading’s 2 goal lead thanks to Fara Williams and Danielle Carter reduced to nothing, as Geum-Min Lee scored twice in less than two minutes to see both teams go into the break level. But a second-half strike from Natasha Harding ensured Reading walked out of their final home match of the 2020-21 campaign victorious.
Reading showed an early aggression, confidently knocking the ball around in the final third, looking for openings. Fara Williams – who wore the captain’s armband for The Royals as she took to the field for her final home game before her retirement at the end of the season – linked up nicely with top scorer Rachel Rowe, as they tried to get the forward pairing of Emma Harries and Danielle Carter through on goal.
Bethan Roberts utilised the left wing, making herself busy as she pushed forward, as did Angharad James through the middle. Reading remained largely in control with fluid, sharp passing and link-up play, with Brighton breaking towards the Royals’ goal sporadically.
The visiting side came closest with a free-kick routine that saw Aileen Wheelan rise to meet a curling ball, but her header was high and went over Grace Moloney’s bar.
Reading were awarded a penalty after yet another nicely worked piece of movement into the box between Rowe and Kristine Leine, when Harries was brought down. Up stepped the player of the moment Williams, who coolly chipped the ball into the largely open net after sending Megan Walsh the wrong way.
The Seagulls tried to respond straight away, and almost succeeded, as Kayleigh Green was denied not one, but twice by Moloney; her two shots stopped by the Royals keeper.
However, it was Reading that struck next, just before half-time, as Carter managed to get onto a strong cross whipped into the area. Her first touch just about controlled the ball, she turned and smashed it home to give Reading a two goal lead.
The deficit was short lived, as Brighton’s Geum-Min Lee latched onto a cross into the Royals’ box a minute later, and nodded home.
However, straight from kick-off, Brighton won the ball back, and Lee found it at her feet from range and with Moloney off her line. Lee lifted the ball perfectly, picking her spot and lobbing the retreating Moloney, to pull the score level in a remarkable turnaround.
Half-time: Reading FC Women 2 – 2 Brighton & Hove Albion Women
The second-half began with an equal level of intensity from the two sides, as they both seemed keen to add to the scoreboard early on. Natasha Harding had an effort cleared off the line at one end, before Green beat Moloney at the other, but was too wide to be able to cut the ball into the net, at the other.
Just ten minutes into the second frame, Harding received a great ball from James and was instantly in the same position she had been in when her effort was cleared off the line. Harding darted towards goal from the left, the Brighton defence in pursuit and Walsh closing the distance, but the Welsh international kept her cool and slotted the ball under the Brighton keeper to put Reading back in front once again.
The pendulum swag and it was Brighton’s turn to pile on the pressure going forward as the midway point of the second-half approached. Reading defended strongly and in numbers as they denied the visiting side on several occasions.
With little over ten minutes left, Williams made way for Jeon Ga-eul to an ovation from players and staff in attendance at Madejski Stadium, as she graced the home turf for the very last time.
Inessa Kaagman went close to finding Brighton’s equaliser as the time ticked away and the away side began frantically throwing bodies into the Reading box, but The Royals defended in numbers and saw off the late onslaught to secure a valuable win to bid farewell to Madejski for 2020-21.
Full-time: Reading FC Women 3 – 2 Brighton & Hove Albion Women
Reading FC Women: Moloney, Bartrip, Cooper, Leine, Roberts (Eikeland 86’), Rowe, Harding, James, Williams (Jeon 77’), Carter, Harries (Chaplen 68’).
Substitutes not used: Nayler, Childerhouse, Flores.
Goals: Williams (36’), Carter (42’), Harding (55’)
Brighton & Hove Albion Women: Walsh, Koivisto (Williams 46’), Kerkdijk, Le Tissier, Gigbons, Whelan, Simpkins (Bance 60’), Kaagman, Heruum (Brazil 60’), Lee, Green.
Substitutes not used: Fiskerstrand, Jarrett, Roe, Olding, Symonds, Robinson.
Goals: Lee (44’), (45’)
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