As a Venn diagram, I guess the crossover of fans that attend both the men’s and the women’s matches isn’t big. For the minority however, it’s a shame that Sky Sports chose to show this early ‘Christmas cracker’ on a Saturday at 11:30am while some of these fans are mid-travel to the Hawthorns for the 3pm men’s kick off. This early start is perhaps even more surprising after Chelsea played Juventus in midweek, and we will wait to see if Emma Hayes mentions this, post match.
There was some amazing WSL talent on display this afternoon and a great opportunity to watch the WSL champions elect and destined Women’s Champions league winners take on......Chelsea.
Two changes for Reading today. Chloe Peplow and Emma Harries replacing Brooke Chaplen (not in the squad) and Tia Primmer, who dropped to the bench. Chelsea have played two matches since the Royals beat Brighton, comfortably winning (last season’s) FA Cup final and drawing in the Champions League. Reading fans wanting to see the return of Fran Kirby had to wait until the second half as she started on the substitutes bench.
Reading got off to a dream start with Deanne Rose scoring past Zecira Musovic, after just four minutes following a nice one two with Emma Harries. Chelsea, as expected, sought to fight back and pressurised Reading throughout the half, starting with a header wide from Sam Kerr.
The Royals defending, however, was stoic and resolute, none more so than when Grace Moloney failed to make a save and there was five Reading defenders on the line ready to block the shot.
Strong defensive headers from Justine Vanhaevermaet and Gemma Evans and an amazing bit of defending and double block from latter in the 32nd minute meant that they deservedly kept their lead at half-time.
Chelsea manager, Emma Hayes, made her first half feelings clear and obvious with a triple substitution at half-time. Kirby, Penille Harder, and Guro Reiten coming on for Drew Spence, Beth England and Jonna Andersson.
As expected, Chelsea continued to put pressure on the Royals defence but it was a text book afternoon of how to defend a 1-0 lead. Upfront, Emma Harries and Deanne Rose were great outlets for any Reading counter attacks, alongside the hard working Tash Dowie. Chelsea continued to roll the dice and showed desperation by using all five substitutions by the 77th minute.
Reading however, worked tirelessly in defence and throughout the whole team, with Gemma Evans outstanding. She was player of the match and surely the star amongst any pick of the WSL team of the week?
Although Grace Moloney was called into action in the second half and as tense as the crowd became as the match drew to a conclusion, Chelsea really didn’t look like scoring - largely down to the work rate, energy and organisation of the blue and white hoops.
There’s always a fear of defeat after receiving the Manager of the Month award but Kelly Chambers can now put that superstition aside and enjoy this moment (even more than the award) and relax for the rest of the weekend, watching the other fixtures roll in.