Manchester City Women 2-0 Reading FC Women
Two second half goals were enough to see off the challenge of a tough defensive unit in Reading Ladies as a header from Jennifer Beattie and a free kick special by Captain Steph Houghton saw Manchester City Women moving 13 points clear at the top of the Women’s Super League table for at least a couple of hours.
With Nick Cushing’s side in control of their own title destiny as the season reaches it’s climax, it saw the visit to the City Academy Stadium of Reading Women and with them languishing near bottom that this looked like on paper at least a straight-forward win for the home side. City saw their injury list growing a bit more, with Dutch International Tessel Middag out of the match with an injury and saw her sporting a protective boot alongside Abbie McManus and Megan Campbell, all of whom were wearing their own protective boots themselves and all watched from the stands.
The home side started brightly in the game with a couple of chances falling their way to Jane Ross and Daphne Corboz, as the Blues were struggling with their aiming, but you sensed that it was an ominous sign of things to come as they were getting joy against their opposition. In the 11th minute of play City’s American fielder Daphne Corboz saw her winning the ball back in a challenge and then laying it off towards City’s top scorer this season in Jane Ross, and the Scottish International struck the bar with a fierce effort that had the goalie in trouble.
Ross had another chance go begging minutes later, when Lucy Bronze whipped in a great ball into the penalty area for the striker and the ball just seemed to be a bit too high for her and was unable to redirect her header on target and so saw the ball go harmlessly out of play. Another cross by Bronze was met this time by Jennifer Beattie in the Reading penalty area, but the defender’s diving header went the wrong side of the post and had the defender rueing her miss as the towering Scottish defender was unmarked.
Reading to their credit stuck to their guns well and didn’t allow the home side to settle into a groove, thanks mainly to their defence cutting out passes and not giving the attackers much space to create chances. Despite the hosts dominating possession and goal attempts in the match, it saw the visitors pegging the home side back and not allowing them to walk the ball into the net, and this was frustrating the home fans with the Blues fans wanting their side to shoot more.
Toni Duggan who was a menace to the away side all afternoon with her play and hounding down of her opponents on the pitch, saw the England star trying a long range effort from distance, but it saw the ball fly wide of the target leaving the home side unable to break down a tough back line in the opening 45 minutes to the game.
Early in the second half it saw Toni Duggan fizzing in a free kick into the box and had Jennifer Beattie on hand to meet it with a lovely header that beat the goalie and found its way in the back of the net to put the league leaders in front after 48 minutes and was no more than they deserved. Following that that goal the home side seemed to almost lose their cutting edge and saw them playing at a lower tempo and coming out a bit flat. Passes were going astray and being under hit and was easily being cut out by the visiting side and it almost started to give Reading a slight whiff of possibly getting back into the contest.
City were still firmly in charge, and saw Jill Scott having a couple of chances herself, as her first was a long range effort that went just over the bar and that was followed up with a header that brought a great save out of Mary Earps in the Reading goals for a corner. Steph Houghton then tried her luck from long range with a free kick, but it was right down the throat of the keeper and saw the hosts looking disjointed at times in their search for a second goal.
Substitute Nikita Parris almost made it 2-0 for City, when the striker had the ball coming to her at the back post and the England International could only find the side-netting and saw the home side beginning to find their rhythm. The visitors then got caught out from their own corner, when the hosts brought the ball away on a quick counter-attack through Jane Ross and after played a quick ball up to Jill Scott who was up in support with the striker, her low driven cross in the box came to the feet of Parris who was completely unmarked and managed to blaze it high over the bar when in hindsight it would have been better to take a touch.
City then found themselves under a bit of pressure late on in the game, as their opponents tried to make something happen and play on the nerves of the home side, as the hosts wasting chances to put the game to bed and only made things harder on themselves. Frustration started to show on the home side with some very soft calls going against them and not being called when they were on the receiving end of similar incidents themselves, which had one or two players complaints being met by deaf ears from the match official.
As the game headed towards the 90th minute, it saw Jane Ross upended outside the penalty area and finally had her getting the decision after two clear claims for a foul not given earlier minutes and a free kick was awarded in a dangerous area. After a little discussion between the defensive wall and the referee on not being 10 yards back, up stepped Steph Houghton for the home side and she fired her free kick into the far post past the keeper and wrapped up victory for the City side and moved them even closer to the title.