Reading’s hopes of reaching the Women’s FA Cup semi-finals were dashed this afternoon by a very functional but professional performance by Chelsea.
The WSL leaders progressed through to the next round, winning 3-1 at the SCL Stadium, with goals from Jess Carter, Maren Mjelde (penalty) and Guro Reiten. Sanne Troelsgaard pulled one back for the Royals in the second half but it wasn’t enough to threaten a Chelsea team that was always in control.
Team: Moloney, Bryson (Wade, 65), Kith, Hendrix (Evans, 45), Mukandi, Woodham, Troelsgaard, Moore, Eikeland, Rowe, Wellings
Subs not used: Burns (GK), Caldwell, Jane, Meadows-Tuson, Vanhaevermaet
Managers often talk about individual errors and I’m sure Kelly Chambers will touch on this again in her post-match comments. Reading’s Grace Moloney was lucky to get away with a poor clearance in the seventh minute which fell to Chelsea striker Niamh Charles, but her attempted chip over the stranded goalkeeper was luckily wide of the target.
Chelsea thought they had a good penalty shout on 12 minutes when a cross came in and Guro Reiten collided with Reading centre-back Easther Mayi Kith, but the referee and assistant didn’t react and play continued - to the disappointment of the Chelsea team and travelling fans.
The visitors opened the scoring on 23 minutes when Reading failed to clear a corner and, instead, allowed Guro Reiten a second chance to deliver a cross to the back post. There, Jess Carter placed the ball with a right-footed finish into the Reading net from close range.
Just three minutes later it was another error that allowed Chelsea to double their lead. Emma Mukandi’s back pass didn’t have enough on it which allowed Guro Reiten to run onto the pass. Brooke Hendrix, under pressure, tangled with the Chelsea striker and this time the referee awarded the penalty and gave a yellow card to Hendrix for her efforts. Maren Mjelde made no mistake from the spot kick, sending Moloney the wrong way, tucking the ball into her left corner with her right-footed shot.
At times the Royals were playing some good passing football going forwards, but were unable to get a decent effort to challenge the Chelsea goalkeeper. On nearly the half-hour mark, Reading thought they had scored when Troelsgaard reacted quickly to finish from close range after some good battling by Jade Moore.
The Chelsea defenders appealed in unison and, after a wait that felt like the decision had gone to VAR (there was no VAR today), the assistant referee eventually flagged for offside.
At half-time Kelly Chambers replaced Hendrix with Welsh international Gemma Evans and otherwise kept the same 3-4-3 formation.
Within six minutes of the restart Chelsea pretty much guaranteed the result with their third goal scored by Guro Reiten - rewarding a good performance by her. Alsu Abdullina broke through the Reading defence and squared the ball across the penalty area for an easy left-foot finish.
With frustration showing, Troelsgaard picked up Reading’s third yellow card of the match after a tangle with Sophie Ingle (Faye Bryson also picked up a yellow card just before half-time, unfairly stopping a Chelsea attack down the wing).
Charlie Wellings missed a glorious opportunity to claw a goal back on the hour mark, dragging her shot across the Chelsea goal from a tight angle. In an almost identical scenario, Troelsgaard showed how it should have been done, with a nice turn and finish, drilling her right-footed effort past Zecira Musovic who had no chance in the Chelsea goal. 1-3 and a glimmer of hope to warm up the loyal Royals in the Sir John Madejski Stand.
Although Chambers made one more change - with Lauren Wade replacing Bryson - it wasn’t to be for Reading and Chelsea finished the match as comfortable winners, using the maximum five substitutes in the second half (without needing to use Sam Kerr who remained seated).
It would perhaps have been a nice distraction (for fans and players alike) to have progressed through to the semi-finals but, ultimately, it’s all about staying in the WSL and avoiding relegation.
Reading’s next WSL match is a huge one! It’s next Sunday at the SCL Stadium (2pm kick-off) against fellow strugglers Brighton and Hove Albion, who are two points behind the Royals but have two matches in hand. It’s going to be tense and Reading will need all the home support they can muster - see you there!