Ladies report: Reading 0 Chelsea 3

Chelsea Ladies kept the pressure on at the top of the WSL 1 table with a fourth successive league victory as captain Katie Chapman netted another header to spur her side to all three points.

Reading made life difficult for Emma Hayes’s side and there was nothing to separate the two sides at the interval before Chapman’s perfect header eight minutes after the restart. The Blues were never really troubled in the sunshine at Adams Park. Gemma Davison wrapped up the points in added time with a super run and a great finish into the top corner before Ana Borges added a third.

Hayes made just one change from last week’s victory over Notts County as Claire Rafferty replaced Borges in the starting side. The manager also reverted back to a 4-2-3-1 shape, with captain Chapman and Millie Bright operating in their familiar deeper midfield roles.

Karen Carney continued to lead the line up front supported by an attacking trio of Eniola Aluko, Ji So-Yun and Davison. After conceding just once in the past three games, Becky Spencer kept her place in goal protected by a back four of Rafferty, Gilly Flaherty, Niamh Fahey and Hannah Blundell.

The Blues had the better of the early chances as they looked to keep the pressure on league leaders Manchester City. Davison was unable to find Carney at the end of a typically mazy run towards goal before the striker headed wide from Blundell’s deep cross.

Skipper Chapman, whose two headed goals inspired the team to a comeback victory over Notts County last time out, came close to heading in again after 20 minutes. Carney’s teasing free-kick caused problems in the Royals box but the captain couldn’t keep her effort down to trouble Mary Earps, the home goalkeeper.

Earps had been tested by full-backs Rafferty and Blundell but she was probably less busy than she was expecting to be. Down the other end, the threat from Kelly Chambers’s side came from striker Melissa Fletcher, who headed wide and then clipped a finish just off-target after advancing well down the left channel.

Chapman continued to provide a nuisance to the home defence in the air, heading wide from Aluko’s cross three minutes before the break before nodding us ahead eight minutes into the second half. Davison won a free-kick on the right, Carney delivered another dangerous cross and Chapman rose to angle a brilliant header into the corner of the net.

It was a goal that arrived just as Reading were enjoying their best spell of the game and Harriet Scott fired a warning shot just wide moments after the breakthrough to remind the visitors of their threat. However, the hosts were now in the unenvious position of choosing whether to stick or twist. Sat second-bottom of the table at the start of the day, they needed to push for a point but there was naturally wariness about allowing the Blues too many opportunities on the counter-attack.

Bright headed wide in a near carbon-copy of the earlier goal but chances remained at a premium as the clock ticked towards the conclusion. Spencer was largely untroubled, preserving a third clean sheet in four games, while Hayes introduced Jade Bailey and Drew Spence to ensure her side kept control of the game in midfield.

A gloss was applied to the scoreline in added time. Davison rifled a finish into the top corner after beating three defenders with a jinking run before substitute Borges added a third with a neat low effort into the corner.

Manchester City’s win at Arsenal means they remain seven points clear of Hayes’s side at the top of the WSL 1 table. The two meet in Manchester in a fortnight.

 

Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Becky Spencer; Hannah Blundell, Niamh Fahey, Gilly Flaherty, Claire Rafferty; Millie Bright, Katie Chapman (c) (Jade Bailey 70); Gemma Davison, Ji So-Yun (Drew Spence 84), Eniola Aluko (Ana Borges 66); Karen Carney
Unused subs Hedvig Lindahl, Beth England
Scorers Chapman 53; Davison 90+1; Borges 90+3

Reading Mary Earps, Rebecca Jane, Harriet Scott, Molly Bartrip (Kayleigh Hines 74), Kirsty McGee (c), Emma Follis, Remi Allen, Lauren Bruton, Kylie Davies, Melissa Fletcher (Nia Jones 79), Rachel Rowe
Unused subs Lois Roche, Jade Boho-Sayo, Laura-May Walkley, Helen Ward, Chloe Sansom
Booked Allen, Bruton

Crowd 617