Reading Women chalked up double digits with their 10th WSL defeat of the season, losing 2-0 away to Liverpool at Prenton Park. It was an afternoon, and first half, that started so well for the Royals with great energy, good pressure and such promise. However, Reading’s defensive frailties were once again exposed in a familiar tale of the season, conceding twice within a three-minute spell that saw the home team secure maximum points and a comfortable buffer from the relegation battle.
Reading on the other hand remain in a precarious position, still looking over their shoulder, having played three more matches than Brighton (one point ahead) and two more than Leicester (bottom of the table and just four points away).
Kelly Chambers made two changes from last weekend’s FA Cup success with Jacqueline Burns back between the posts, replacing penalty shootout hero Grace Moloney and a first start (or restart) for Jade Moore, returning to the club on loan from Manchester United.
Team: Burns, Mukandi, Cooper, Evans, Woodham, Vanhaevermaet, Eikeland, Rowe, Moore (Primmer, 73), Troelsgaard (Alexander, 74), Harries (Wade, 59)
To most fans it probably didn’t come as a surprise that it was a quiet transfer window for Kelly Chambers and her management team. The only permanent signing during the window was Easther Mayi Kith (to the end of 2023/2024), a 25-year-old defender, joining from Kristianstads DFF, Sweden – and she didn’t feature in the squad today, apparently awaiting visa approval first.
Perhaps the most puzzling announcement was the news of Natasha Dowie joining Liverpool on loan – a club she has represented before – so understandably not figuring in the match squad for the Reds today. A strange move to allow, with the Royals surely needing all the attacking options they can muster and, instead, strengthening the forward line of a relegation peer team and direct competitor! It’s either an act of genius, foolhardiness or perhaps one that is forced by (lack of) finances or player power?
Chloe Peplow was the only other update, switching loan clubs from Crystal Palace to Southampton.
Although the transfer window has closed, Reading yesterday announced their third signing, and again one known to them already, with Reading-born 23-year-old striker Tinaya Alexander joining from Montpellier. She returns after leaving the Royals at a young age to progress both her football and education in the US at the Louisiana State University. Tinaya was a second-half substitute today (replacing Sanne Troelsgaard on 74 minutes) and looks to be exciting prospect, with an impressive US college goalscoring record.
After a Liverpool kick-off and early corner it was the Royals that enjoyed the better of the first half, with early pressure and commitment similar to that shown against Manchester United during the last WSL match at the SCL Stadium. This pressure caused an early scare for the home team with goalkeeper Rachael Laws getting caught in position on the edge of the box by Troelsgaard, who was unlucky to see her challenge and block not come to anything.
Reading’s best chances arguably came from three free-kicks in the first half. Emma Harries was unlucky after a training ground free-kick saw Rachel Rowe pass to Emma Mukandi, who crossed from the right, but Emma Harries’ resultant header hit the top of the cross bar and went out for a goal kick.
Within a minute, Rachel Rowe put in another free-kick deep to the back post but Deanna Cooper was unable to connect in what otherwise would have been a certain goal. A great missed opportunity and one where Deanna Cooper should probably have done better. The third free-kick was from Lily Woodham with Reading’s shot cleared, rather unconvincingly, at the near post by the Liverpool defence.
Sanne Troelsgaard had a couple of good chances, firing a shot over the cross bar from long range and, unselfishly, choosing to try and square a pass to Amalie Eikeland when a shot on goal looked an equally good option.
The Reds also had enjoyed a few attempts and pressure during the first half - the closest coming from a header back from Ceri Holland resulting in a scrambled attempt by Liverpool’s Katie Stengel, cleared off the line by Emma Mukandi – but surely a foul on the Reading goalkeeper in the process?
With it all level and no goals at half time, the Royals appeared to look well placed to really push on and get that vital away win and much-needed WSL points. Liverpool, however, had other ideas and Reading were second best for the remaining 45 minutes.
There were early warning signs as Liverpool pushed forward, Justine Vanhaevermaet not making a midfield tackle and allowing a long-range effort which thankfully was too high.
It was Kelly Chambers who showed her hand first with the first substitution, bringing on Lauren Wade for Emma Harries on 58 minutes. Before Lauren Wade had time to try and change the tide, Liverpool put the match beyond the hope of the Royals with two goals in just three minutes.
Katie Stengel passed to Emma Loivisto, who crossed from the right, finding Missy Bo Kearns who turned Deanna Cooper too easily and finished from close range to take the lead. 1-0. We’ve seen Reading attempt a comeback previously but before they could get going it was 2-0. Megan Campbell’s impressive long throw was flicked on at the near post by Gemma Bonner and Ceri Holland had an easy finish at the back post to put the match beyond the Royals.
The subsequent changes of Tia Primmer for Jade Cooper (who had an impressive first match back) and the introduction of new signing Tinaya Alexander, for Sanne Troelsgaard, didn’t change the flow of the match. The game pretty much petered out and drew to a conclusion with Liverpool in control and looking the more likely team to score and extend their lead.
Another disappointing end for the Royals on their travels in the WSL. In what always feels like a start-stop WSL season, Reading now have more time to reflect, and improve on the training ground, with an international break. That’s followed by the FA Cup match away to Tottenham Hotspur (at Leyton Orient) on February 26, before returning to WSL action versus West Ham United at the SCL stadium on March 5. See you there!