City steal the points despite Reading opener

Manchester City welcomed Reading to the Academy Stadium on Sunday, with Gareth Taylor’s side desperately in need of a win to remain in contention for the FA Women’s Super League title. His team have fallen behind somewhat, and as the end of the season draws nearer, they remain reliant on other results going their way if they are to be in with a chance.

As for Reading, they find themselves in a relegation battle at the other end of the table. With just one team dropping down to the FA Women’s Championship, the Royals will have been looking to rise above the bottom of the table with a win.

MCI: Roebuck; Morgan, Greenwood, Houghton, Casparij; Angeldahl, Hasegawa; Hemp, Coombs, Kelly; Shaw

REA: Moloney; Mukandi, Caldwell, Kith, Eikeland; Wellings, Rowe, Vanhaevermaet, Harries; Primmer, Troelsgaard

Khadija Shaw got the action underway at the Academy Stadium, but just a minute into the match, Reading took a surprise lead! Sanne Troelsgaard opted to shoot from the edge of the box, and her strike curled around Ellie Roebuck before settling in the bottom corner. This was a game that could define both teams’ seasons, and the Royals had certainly made the dream start in Manchester.

Manchester City returned to their usual dominant style of play soon after, with Khadija Shaw winning a corner after her shot was blocked by Diane Caldwell. Alex Greenwood’s was cleared well by the Reading ‘keeper though. Gareth Taylor’s side should have found an equaliser soon after as Chloe Kelly’s free-kick was diverted towards goal by Steph Houghton, but once again Grace Moloney made a comfortable save.

City’s relentless attack looked sure to score, as Lauren Hemp and Khadija Shaw both came close to threatening Grace Moloney between the sticks – but both efforts were skewed wide of the post.

Chloe Kelly brought the hosts level in the 16th minute though, after Khadija Shaw looked to get a shot off in the crowded box. The Jamaican’s effort was blocked, but Kelly was able to tap it in from close range to net the equaliser.

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Unrelenting in their search for an equaliser, City continued to flood forward in numbers. Laura Coombs attempted a speculative effort from twenty-five yards out before Lauren Hemp fired over from inside the box. It felt like it’d be just a matter of time before the hosts took the lead!

That’s exactly what happened, as Khadija Shaw rose highest inside the box to nod Alex Greenwood’s delivery past Grace Moloney. Reading looked to embarrass Ellie Roebuck and bring themselves level almost immediately though, as Sanne Troelsgaard rushed through on goal and nabbed the ball from the ‘keeper – but Roebuck was able to recover in the nick of time.

With the exception of those two chances for Troelsgaard, the game had been well and truly dominated by Manchester City – who had recorded a whopping twelve shots in the opening thirty minutes of the fixture. The remainder of the half played out in a relatively quiet fashion, bar a chance created by Lauren Hemp in the dying minutes – but Khadija Shaw’s effort was saved by Grace Moloney.

The hosts started the second half well, and within two minutes they’d put themselves 3-1 up. This time it was Lauren Hemp on the scoresheet – Filippa Angeldalh played in Chloe Kelly, and her cross into the area gave Hemp a simple finish to make at the back post.

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City should really have made it four though, as Lauren Hemp danced through a cluster of Reading shits before finding Chloe Kelly – but she then placed her shot marginally wide of the post. Khadija Shaw looked to break through the defence with a probing run, though she was stopped abruptly by a well-timed challenge from Maya Kith.

As had happened at the end of the first half, the game seemed to quieten down once more as City had well and truly established their control on the match – until Lauren Hemp’s half-volleyed effort struck the woodwork and sparked some life back into proceedings.

Filippa Angeldahl, Yui Hasegawa and Chloe Kelly all had opportunities to add to City’s lead, though none of them could make the chances count. Gareth Taylor’s side finally extended their lead in the 71st minute though, as Steph Houghton found the back of the net – powering an excellent free-kick from the edge of the box past Grace Moloney.

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They nearly made it five just minutes later, as Kerstin Casparij’s cross to Khadija Shaw was headed towards goal by the Jamaican forward. Moloney was able to make the save this time though. Shaw came close once more though as she launched a thunderous strike from outside the box, but it flew just inches wide of the top corner.

Ultimately though, that would be the last significant chance at the Academy Stadium. Despite an early scare, City ran out as comfortable 4-1 winners in the end, and they rise to second in the WSL table. They’ve got three games still to play, including a Manchester Derby against their table-topping neighbours. However, both Chelsea and Arsenal could leapfrog Gareth Taylor’s side if they win their games in hand.

For Reading, it’s not a pretty picture at the bottom of the table. They remain in twelfth, occupying the sole relegation spot and sitting two points below Brighton. The next few games will be absolutely crucial, with the Royals set to face Aston Villa, Spurs and Chelsea.