Ladies report: Reading 2 Chelsea 2

Goals from Karen Carney and Eniola Aluko helped the Blues come from behind against Reading, but a stoppage-time leveller for the Royals ended our flawless start to the WSL1 campaign.

The Blues recovered from the novelty of trailing in the league for the first time so far this term and looked to be heading for a fifth straight victory in the WSL1. Fresh from her decisive contribution last weekend, Carney found the equaliser from another flawless set-piece, before Aluko netted her fifth goal of the season to put us ahead. However, an own goal from Magda Eriksson deep into injury time ensured it was only a point for the Blues.

Emma Hayes made limited changes to her line-up for what promised to be a demanding league encounter, though sandwiched in the middle of our Champions League round-of-16 tie against Rosengard. Gemma Davison was one of three English players back in the starting XI, replacing Crystal Dunn having appeared from the bench in our previous two games.

Drew Spence and Carney also returned to the side. Spence led the line alongside Fran Kirby in place of Ramona Bachmann, while Carney, who scored a stoppage-time penalty to earn us three points at Bristol, came in for Ji So-Yun and operated in a free role behind the front two.

Both Reading and Chelsea, playing in our third kit, wore poppies on their shirts and took part in a minute’s silence before the match to honour Remembrance Sunday.

The opening exchanges set the pattern for the rest of the match, with Chelsea preferring to play out from the back and dominating possession. Meanwhile, Reading pressed us high up the pitch and searched for direct passes into their attackers whenever they won the ball.

Spence forced a decent save from Mary Earps within the first five minutes thanks to some tenacious play inside the penalty area. The Blues No 24 fought hard to forge a yard of space and test the goalkeeper with a low, left-footed strike across goal, albeit at a tight angle.

Kirby was next to challenge her England colleague. A perfectly weighted pass from Davison put her through on goal, but an onrushing Earps quickly snuffed out her dipped finish. We had another chance to go a goal to the good shortly afterwards when Davison decided to cut inside herself on this occasion and launched a piledriver narrowly over the crossbar.

Reading threatened for the first time after 13 minutes as Fara Williams, who scored the winner for the Royals straight from the kick-off against Arsenal last Sunday, unleashed a characteristic long-range effort towards Hedvig Lindahl but her volley was off target.

Carney delivered a peach of a cross towards Spence as we approached the half-hour mark but the experienced defender Jo Potter managed to get her head to it first. Katie Chapman followed up moments later with a powerful shot from 30 yards, but the WSL1 leaders were beginning to look a little frustrated in the face of disciplined defending from the hosts.

We conceded our first goal of the league campaign on 35 minutes after failing to clear a speculative ball into the box. A punched attempt by Lindahl ultimately fell to Williams, who left Remi Allen with a simple finish after supplying her late run with a smart backheel.

Chelsea responded with intent in the second half as Dunn replaced Maria Thorisdottir in an attacking substitution. Kirby burst into the Reading box a couple of times after the kick-off but her crosses did not quite produce clear-cut opportunities against her former club.

The Blues eventually found our equaliser on 56 minutes through a pinpoint free-kick by Carney. Our wily winger had earned the chance herself in a dangerous position on the edge of the 18-yard box, curling a corker of a strike over the wall and smoothly past Earps.

The match briefly resembled a kicking contest as Williams struck the woodwork from a similar position at the other end. Chelsea regained the ascendancy, though, and Spence gave herself a good opening on the counter-attack before seeing her shot well saved.

Kirby came close for the visitors using her typical close control to weave her way into the area. Spence was again lurking in front of goal, ready to seize the rebound, and it took some wonderful defending by Harriet Scott to turn away a left-footed shot from the former.

Reading were prepared to put their bodies on the line several more times, Kirsty Pearce denying Kirby a tap-in and preventing Davison from capitalising on a positive run down the right wing. Still level with 20 minutes remaining, the game was hanging on a thread.

However, the Blues took the lead for the first time and it was a superbly worked goal featuring a patient build-up and then a wonderful finish at the decisive moment, as Aluko struck firmly into the far corner from the edge of the box to give us the advantage.

It looked to be enough to secure a fifth win out of five in the WSL1 as Reading saw two clear-cut opportunities kept out by Lindahl, but there was one final twist in stoppage time as a hopeful free-kick into the box was headed past her own goalkeeper by Eriksson.

The next task for Chelsea Ladies is to protect our three-goal advantage against Rosengard on Wednesday night as we aim to reach our first-ever European quarter-final. The second leg in Malmö kicks off at 5.30pm (UK time), with live coverage available via Chelsea TV or our YouTube channel, and is the last fixture ahead of the November international break.

 

Reading Earps, Scott (Jane 81), Williams (Linnett 79), Bartrip, Pearce (c), (Van Den Berg 88), Furness, Allen, Bruton, Chaplen, Potter, Rowe
Unused subs Moloney, Green
Scorers Allen 35, Eriksson OG 90+2
Booked Chaplen, Pearce

Chelsea (3-4-1-2) Lindahl; Bright, Flaherty, Eriksson; Thorisdottir (Dunn 45), Mjelde, Chapman (c), Davison (Blundell 76); Carney; Kirby, Spence (Aluko 66)
Unused subs Spencer, Ji, Cuthbert, Bachmann
Scorers Carney 56, Aluko 75
Booked Thorisdottir, Eriksson