Chelsea Women gave Hedvig Lindahl a perfect ending to her four-and-a-half year spell at the club by taking away all three points from our final game of the season, despite Reading coming back from behind on two occasions.
The last time we met the Royals, we recorded an impressive 4-0 victory, and although we dominated the first half today, Reading returned to the pitch for the second half with purpose and gave us a scare.
Chelsea went ahead early on thanks to a sweet strike by Ji So-Yun, which was set up by Jonna Andersson and was the only goal of the first half. However, the hosts found a route back into the game and equalised five minutes into the second period after Natasha Harding beat Lindahl.
It took Karen Carney two minutes to restore our lead with a cross that looped over the head of Grace Moloney and into the Royals’ goal. Fara Williams managed to get Reading back on level terms moments later from her headed effort, and as the game finished in high drama, Bethany England saved the day when slotted a composed effort past Grace Moloney to put us back in front.
Today marked Lindahl’s last-ever game in between the sticks for Chelsea Women after four-and-a-half hugely successful years and as she walked out onto the pitch at Adams Park, the crowd gave her a loud standing ovation. Prior to the game she was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a special picture frame which was presented by the Chelsea Women’s Supporters Group as a thanks for her fantastic service to the club.
Hayes made several changes to her personnel following the 8-0 victory over Yeovil on Tuesday. Lindahl replaced Carly Telford and captained the side. In front of her was Maren Mjelde, Millie Bright, Magdalena Eriksson and Jonna Andersson, with Sophie Ingle, Erin Cuthbert, Ji So-Yun and Karen Carney in midfield. Bethany England and Fran Kirby played as the attacking duo.
Ingle almost put the Blues ahead inside three minutes when she directed Andersson’s corner with a powerful header on goal, but Fara Williams was on the line to deny her effort. We did not have to wait long for the opener, though, as Andersson’s cross that landed into a congested box was not dealt with properly by the Reading defence. Ji unleashed an arrow of a shot which flew past Grace Moloney in the hosts’ goal in the eighth minute.
Chelsea continued to dominate the game and played some lovely pass-and-move combinations. England almost gave us a two-goal cushion as we reached the 20-minute mark of the contest. Kirby linked up well with the no.15 which enabled her to have a clear-cut chance on goal, but her close-range effort missed the target by a matter of inches.
Our attacking duo, who looked full of confidence and fitness continued to cause the Royals’ defence problems. Kirby twisted and turned past Kirsty Pearce and unselfishly tried to square the ball to her strike partner England, though Maz Pacheco managed to make an important interception for Reading. Kirby was at it again and was almost rewarded after she let rip from six yards out. Her effort deflected off of Remi Allen and bounced off the post and was cleared away.
Although Reading had chances, the Blues’ backline and Lindahl were not massively troubled, although Remi Allen went close in the closing stages of the first half, when she tried her luck from range.
Hayes made a change to her side at the interval. Cuthbert made way for Adelina Engman.
The Blues began the second half in the same manner as the first, as the stronger side. Moments into it Carney had a clear chance but Moloney got down to the ground quickly to block and then Kirby picked up the scraps and drilled a fierce shot which was also saved.
However, if the Blues were expecting an easy ride, we thought wrongly. Reading pulled one back nine minutes into the second half when Williams dinked a ball over the top of our defence. Tash Harding used her pace and chased the ball down to slot past Lindahl with ease.
We responded instantly and took the lead once again. Carney lashed a ball into the box and fortunately for us, it drifted through the gloves of Moloney which not only surprised the keeper, but the whole of Adams Park.
Our defence was then caught off guard and we were punished for it. Harding charged through on goal and her strike, which bounced off the post, was met by Williams’ head. Lindahl managed to get her fingertips to the effort, but while doing that, she unfortunately helped it on its way in.
At this point it was end-to-end action. Kirby wriggled her way past a number of Reading players and drilled an effort on goal on the angle, and although it was denied by Moloney, England got onto the end of it but frustratingly clipped the post. England finally got her name deservedly on the scoresheet after 63 minutes. She pounced on a Jade Moore mistake and calmly placed her clinical finish past the Reading keeper.
There was a pause in play with 20 minutes left on the clock when Ji received treatment after Allen swiped the legs of the South Korean, which warranted referee Abigail Byrn to issue a yellow card to Reading’s no.8. This forced Hayes to make a third and final change which meant Maria Thorisdottir came on in replacement of Ji in midfield.
We managed to hold on to the one-goal lead until the final whistle, securing us our seventh victory out of nine meetings with Reading and third place in the WSL for the 2018/19 season.
Reading (4-4-2) Moloney, Pacheco, Williams, Pearce (c), Furness, Allen, Bruton, Harding, Farrow (Jane 46), Moore, Howard.
Unused subs Davison, Estcourt, Woodham, Laws.
Scorers Harding 50, Williams 52
Booked Williams, Allen
Chelsea (4-4-2) Lindahl (c); Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson (Blundell 67); Ingle, Cuthbert (Engman 46), Ji (Thorisdottir 76), Carney; England, Kirby.
Unused subs Telford, Carter, Spence, Bachmann.
Scorers Ji 8, Carney 52, England 64
Referee Abigail Byrn