Chelsea are safely through to the Women’s FA Cup semi-final with Jess Carter, Maren Mjelde and Guro Reiten all finding the net.
The Blues, aiming to win the trophy for the third successive season, scored twice in three first-half minutes to take control of the quarter-final tie at the Madejski Stadium.
Carter volleyed us ahead midway through the half and Mjelde doubled our advantage from the penalty spot, with the outstanding Reiten instrumental in both goals.
The Norwegian got her name on the scoresheet early in the second half as Chelsea killed the contest off. Reading did get a consolation goal as our foot came off the gas with the focus starting to turn to a huge Champions League game against Lyon on Wednesday night.
As well as being able to give Sam Kerr and Lauren James the afternoon off, Emma Hayes could take extra satisfaction from handing Chelsea debuts to youngsters Ashanti Akpan, Reanna Blades and Cerys Brown.
You can watch the second leg of our Champions League tie against Lyon live at the Bridge on Thursday 30 March. Tickets can be purchased here.
Today, as she had promised, Hayes made full use of her squad, making six changes to the team that started against Man United a week ago. James and Kerr were among those rested ahead of our midweek European assignment, while Alsu Abdullina enjoyed her first start of the season.
With no recognised striker, Reiten and Niamh Charles led the line for the Blues in a 3-4-1-2 shape, with Jessie Fleming operating in behind them.
This cup tie started cagily, and in fact the first shot in anger stemmed from a goalkeeping error rather than an attack of note. Grace Moloney’s kick lacked distance and landed at the feet of Charles, who bent a shot goalwards from the edge of the box that drifted narrowly wide.
The makeshift front two of Charles and Reiten looked threatening, and they combined before the quarter-hour mark with the former crossing in the direction of the latter, only for Reiten to be bundled to the ground 10 yards out. No penalty was the verdict, and thankfully the Norwegian was okay to continue after treatment.
Chelsea edged ahead midway through the first half. We recycled play from a corner and Reiten’s deep cross from the right flank found an unmarked Carter, who calmly steered the ball past Moloney from close range.
It was 2-0 in the blink of an eye. Reiten was again at the heart of it, capitalising on a short back pass. Before she could get her shot away, Brooke Hendrix felled her from behind for a clear spot-kick. Mjelde stepped up and sent Moloney the wrong way from 12 yards.
Reading thought they had halved the deficit on 29 minutes when Sanne Troelsgaard lashed home from a knockdown, but despite the goal initially standing the assistant referee did eventually raise his flag, perhaps when it became clear the flick forward had come off a Reading player.
The Royals, battling relegation, went close again through Charlie Wellings, who couldn’t direct her header on target having found a yard of space between Millie Bright and Magda Eriksson.
Aside from that chance, the Blues navigated a smooth passage to the interval well in the ascendency.
Reiten gets her reward
We reinforced that dominance when play restarted. Mjelde hit the outside of the post direct from a corner, and then Reiten got the goal she deserved with 50 minutes played.
Johanna Rytting Kaneryd seized on a loose ball in the centre circle and brilliantly released Abdullina, who unselfishly squared to Reiten as she bore down on goal. Guro couldn’t miss!
Charles forced a low save from Moloney as we hunted a fourth. With 25 minutes to play, Hayes brought on Aimee Claypole and Akpan, the latter for her debut. Ingle and Reiten were withdrawn with an eye on Wednesday.
Reading had scarcely threatened Zecira Musovic in our goal in the second half but they found a way past her on 70 minutes. Troelsgaard spun Millie Bright inside the box and finished emphatically across Musovic.
Unlike the WSL fixture between these sides in December, there was no second Reading goal to cause serious alarm as we saw the game out to advance to the last four. The draw is on Tuesday morning.
The Blues travel to France to play Lyon in the first leg of our Champions League quarter-final tie. That’s on Wednesday night. We then return to domestic action away to Man City in the WSL on Sunday.
Chelsea (3-4-1-2): Musovic; Carter, Bright, Eriksson (c); Kaneryd (Brown 90), Mjelde, Ingle (Akpan 64), Abdullina; Fleming (Blades 89); Charles (Leupolz 80), Reiten (Claypole 65).
Unused subs Berger, James, Kerr, Buchanan
Scorers Carter 23, Mjelde (pen) 26, Reiten 51
Reading (4-3-3): Moloney; Bryson (Wade 65), Woodham, Mukandi (c), Hendrix (Evans h/t); Mayi Kith, Eikeland, Moore; Rowe, Troelsgaard, Wellings.
Unused subs Burns, Caldwell, Jane, Vanhaevermaet, Meadows, Tuson
Scorer Troelsgaard 70
Booked Hendrix 25, Bryson 45+3, Troelsgaard 53