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Reading Women 2 (Kirby 10, Bruton 38) Arsenal 0
Reading Women gave a brilliant display to defeat Arsenal 2-0 in their Continental Cup group match at Farnborough.
Executing the same tactical set up which had so nearly worked against Chelsea two weeks ago, Jayne Ludlow's team defied and ultimately frustrated the Gunners with a performance of admirable discipline from every player. Two superb goals in the first half gave the hosts a lead which they protected successfully right to the end in the face of relentless Arsenal pressure to notch the best win in the club's history.
Francesca Kirby scored a solo effort In the 10th minute, cleverly outwitting Yukari Kinga with a flick and outpacing the defenders before drilling the ball past Emma Byrne from twelve yards. Arsenal piled on the pressure as Reading defended very deep and narrow, allowing full backs Alex Scott and Leah Williamson to advance high up the pitch. Despite their frequent crosses and the powerful running of Danielle Carter and Emma Mitchell towards the Reading goal, forcing numerous corners and balls threaded into Shinobu Ohno and Christie Murray, the Reading defenders stuck to their task of tracking, blocking and clearing so well that Nicola Davies was rarely called into action.
Reading always had the threat of Kirby to trouble Casey Stoney and Anouk Hoogendijk and the mercurial forward set up the second goal. Outpacing Stoney then twice beating her attempts to tackle, Kirby set up Kirsty McGee whose fierce low shot was pushed out by Byrne to Lauren Bruton who finished in style from ten yards.
Arsenal brought on Freda Ayisi after the break and her direct style gave Reading many more problems, working one wing whilst Danielle Carter probed on the other. Both full backs, Shelly Cox and Stacey Wiggins stood up well to the threat posed, backed up by the hard work of Lois Roche, Cheryl Williams, Becky Jane, McGee and Bruton in covering. Meanwhile Molly Bartrip and Alex Keown were rock like in central defence. Even so. Davies had to be alert in her handling of several powerful shots from distance. The only time she failed to take a shot cleanly, the Welsh international recovered quickly to bravely block the second effort from Ohno.
Rachel Yankey was introduced in an attempt to increase the pressure and Williamson was moved into a more advanced role as Shelly Kerr sought the key to a breakthrough..Yankey hit the post with a superb free kick in the 90th minute but before then, Kirby, who had been kept more quiet in the second half, broke clear again and was denied by a good save from Byrne.
The final whistle was met with huge applause from the majority of the 387 crowd as they had seen an outstanding effort from the home team to beat the only club to win the Continental Cup in its first three years. Of course, the group stage allows teams to recover from defeat but Chelsea now look in a very good position to top Group One with their three wins so far.
Reading Women: Nicola Davies, Stacey Wiggins, Alex Keown, Molly Bartrip, Shelly Cox, Becky Jane, Lois Roche (sub Georgie Giddings 85mins), Kirsty McGee, Cheryl Williams (sub Leigh Nicol 90mins), Lauren Bruton, Francesca Kirby.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Leah Williamson, Yukari Kinga, Casey Stoney, Anouk Hoogendijk (sub Rachel Yankey 73mins), Caroline Weir (sub Freda Ayisi 45mins), Shinobu Ohno, Danielle Carter, Christie Murray, Emma Mitchell.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Anouk Hoogendijk clears away from Francesca Kirby
(middle) Lauren Bruton, Kirsty McGee and Alex Keown jump with Leah Williamson
(bottom) Alex Scott holds off Lauren Bruton
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