Manchester City extended their lead at the top of WSL to seven points over Chelsea with a comfortable 2-1 win at Adams Park over Reading.
With Sunday’s Continental Cup tie in mind City made several changes as Jenny Beattie replaced the injured Megan Campbell in defence, the Irish international arrived at the ground at kick off on crutches, whilst Tessell Middag made her first WSL start in place of Keira Walsh.
Reading, winless in WSL but encouraged by back to back draws with Birmingham City and Notts County, started brightly as the industrious Rachel Rowe saw her shot blocked after superb wing play on the counter from Emma Follis on 4 minutes. City responded themselves as they called Reading into action defensively when Captain Steph Houghton’s header was cleared off the line from a corner.
The league leaders dominance of the game asserted itself throughout the first half and on 12 minutes created their first real chance from open play as Beattie hit a superb 35 cross field pass finding Lucy Bronze on the wing whose knock down header released Nikita Parris lifting the ball over full back Sophie Perry with her first touch before volleying just over from the edge of the area. Three minutes later a terrific one-two almost released Isobel Christiansen one-on-one only to be denied by a superb challenge from Reading Captain Kirsty McGhee.
Reading continue to threaten on the counter and Lauren Bruton raced through the middle of the field only to be denied by an excellent Houghton challenge at the edge of the area. On 21 minutes Reading goalkeeper Mary Earps was called into action for the first time as she was forced to hold onto a strong Jane Ross effort at the near post. The remainder of the first half saw few chances as City dominated the proceedings in midfield whilst Reading defended resolutely.
However they were undone on 38 minutes when a ball down the right freed up Nikita Parris whose cross was pulled back from the by-line onto the head of Christiansen who couldn’t miss from 6 yards out tucking her heading inside the right hand post. It was no more reward than City deserved for their dominance of possession and they almost made it 2-0 right on the stroke of half time as Beattie headed wide un-marked from a corner.
The second half kicked off in a similar fashion to the first with City on top whilst Reading were happy to play on the counter attack. Georgia Stanway almost doubled their City’s lead on 53 minutes when she cut inside and cannoned her long range effort off the foot of the post.
Four minutes later Reading finally opened City up as a lovely through ball released Follis one-on-one but England’s number one was quickest to react clearing into touch. On 64 minutes a fine City move saw Christiansen play in Stanway with a sweeping pass into the area and Stanway called Earps into action again saving at her near post.
The second goal came with just 10 minutes remaining as City forced another corner, the initial delivery reached Toni Duggan at the edge of the area and the England International unleashed an unstoppable volley into the top right corner. It was an important goal for Duggan who’d not netted for City since April 29th.
That should have been game over but City were left with a slightly nervous finish in the 89th minute as Nikita Parris tripped Follis inside the penalty area. Bruton sent Bardsley the wrong way but it was too little too late and Reading couldn’t force another chance in the four additional minutes of stoppage time allowing City to 10 games unbeaten.
Nick Cushing was ‘content’ with his sides performance; “The performance level was very good, we could have been better in and around the final third. I thought our performance levels were very good, the way we passed the ball, the way we built, we showed patience but then a bit emotional, a bit illogical at times that put us under pressure.”
Player of the Match: Kirsty McGhee (Reading)