The fans that chose to ignore the World Cup and instead venture out on a damp, blustery and cold November evening were rewarded with an entertaining, if topsy-turvy, 3-3 draw where the second-half substitutions came to the rescue for both teams.
In the opening minutes, the Royals appeared to get off to a promising start, on the front foot and charging down on the Liverpool defence and goal. It was Liverpool, however, that had the best of the early moments when a run down the Reds’ left wing saw a cut-back pass to the ex-Reading player, Rachel Furness, whose left-foot effort was blocked with a superb piece of lunging defending from Royals centre back Deanna Cooper.
Cooper was one of three changes, replacing Gemma Evans who dropped to the substitutes bench. Lauren Wade made way for Charlie Wellings (playing alongside Natasha Dowie as the Royals’ strike force) and Grace Moloney was back in goal, while Jacqueline Burns started her punishment for the sending-off against Aston Villa on Sunday.
Grace Moloney, Emma Mukandi, Diane Caldwell, Deanna Cooper, Lily Woodham, Amaile Eikeland, Justine Vanhaevermaet, Tia Primmer, Rachel Rowe, Charlie Wellings, Natasha Dowie
The first half featured some real inconsistency in the Royals’ play. Left back Lily Woodham, who enjoyed a great performance, provided some excellent set pieces, her left foot accurately whipping the ball in all night – causing the Liverpool defence problems. At other times the Royals were sloppy, Diane Caldwell pleased to see a Reds attack come to nothing after giving the ball away cheaply.
It was another run down the Liverpool left wing and a superb cross which saw Katie Stengel rise and head home past the stranded Grace Moloney. 0-1 to the visitors on 16 minutes. The Liverpool centre forward was a strong presence all match and proved difficult for the Royals defence to control.
Reading continued to show promise in spells and, on 21 minutes, it was Rachel Rowe driving forward from central midfield who slipped in a pass to Tia Primmer who was unfortunately unable to control and finish.
25 minutes in and there was another good header opportunity for Liverpool, and a let-off for the Royals, when Rachel Furness headed wide of the goal – with a large Liverpool fan base (and the Reading Loyal Royals) all expecting the Reds to extend their lead.
If there’s a ‘no tugging of shirts’ clamp down in the World Cup, the referee in this game didn’t get the same memo. Reading striker Natasha Dowie finished with a tame shot after having her shirt pulled by the Liverpool defender on the edge of the penalty area.
On the half-hour mark Lily Woodham provided a great bit of skill (worthy of the Brazilian alternative on the same evening), with a drop of her shoulder to move between two Liverpool defenders, pass to Justine Vanhaevermaet who chipped the ball towards the penalty area but just too high for Natasha Dowie.
Liverpool could have scored another header, from a corner, with Melissa Lawley’s header just wide too – and it was all a bit too easy for the Reds. With Emma Mukandi caught high on a Reading press, Justine Vanhaevermaet found herself outpaced down the Liverpool left by the powerful Katie Stengel who cut in across the Reading penalty area, unleashing a right-foot shot which Lily Woodham bravely headed and diverted off for a corner.
In the second of three minutes of time added on, perhaps surprisingly, it was Reading that scored a goal – equally worthy of South American skill – to bring the match all square in time for the half-time break. Lily Woodham executed a left foot free kick which the Liverpool defence could only cleared as far as Tia Primmer, on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area, who in some style managed to twist and angle a shot that looped into the top left past the Liverpool goalkeeper, Eartha Cumings.
This goal seemed to boost Reading in the second half and, after a bit of early pressure from Liverpool, it was the Royals who found themselves on the front foot again for the opening 15 minutes. Natasha Dowie and Charlie Wellings were inches away from connecting. Another cross from ‘player of the match’ Lily Woodham saw Tia Primmer miss an easier chance than her first-half equaliser, with her side-foot finish going back across and wide of the goal.
This pressure was rewarded on 63 minutes when a Rachel Rowe right-foot inswinger was eventually turned into the net at close range by Natasha Dowie – after her first headed attempt hit the upright and bounced back across the box. 2-1 to the Royals and it all looked promising again.
And then Liverpool manager Matt Beard made a double substitution, bringing on Rhiannon Roberts and Megan Campbell. Within four minutes, Cambell provided a deft cross to the penalty area where an onrushing Katie Stengel only had to redirect the header to score her second of the night and bring the score all level at 2-2.
Just six minutes later it was substitute Rhiannon Roberts that put the Reds 3-2 ahead scoring at the back post.
Kelly Chambers had already replaced Charlie Wellings with Emma Harries, knee still heavily strapped after her recently return from injury, and a double substitution with goalscorer Tia Primmer replaced by Sanne Troelsgaard and Deanna Cooper swapped like-for-like with Gemma Evans.
Although Liverpool enjoyed renewed enthusiasm, buoyed by their two goals, it was this time the Royals substitute, Sanne Troelsgaard, that had the final say – with a perfect back-post header across the Liverpool six-yard box and into the net, from an Amalie Eikeland cross and assist. Cue celebrations and relief all round for a 3-3 finish to a really entertaining evening of football – who needs the World Cup right!?!
And a special mention and thanks to TTE’s very own Ben Thomas with more excellent half-time hosting, interviewing and football entertainment. Good for you!