Reiten Rocket Helps Skilful Blues See Off Stubborn Royals

Chelsea 3-1 Reading

Words and photos by Ben Gilby

Chelsea overcame a dogged Reading outfit who dug in well despite playing over 70 minutes with ten players following the dismissal of keeper Grace Moloney.

Whilst all of the media attention surrounded the debut of Australian superstar Sam Kerr, it is worth emphasising that Chelsea’s long standing cohort of players produced moments of class when it mattered to gain the all-important three points.

Above: Guru Reiten, scorer of a quite magnificent goal. Photo: Ben Gilby.

It was the East Fremantle born debutant who had the first opportunity of the game as she broke through onto a perfect ball from Guru Reiten. Maloney came out in a bid to narrow the angle and Kerr’s effort flew into the South Terrace.

Above: Sam Kerr’s early effort on her Chelsea debut. Photo: Ben Gilby

Whilst it is the Western Australian’s goal scoring record that attracts all of the attention, it is her movement off of the ball, intelligent positioning and skilful interplay that mark Kerr out as a true top talent. Throughout the afternoon at Kingsmeadow, she played a game which was highly familiar to those used to watching her play international football for the Matildas over the years; floating across the middle of the pitch to get onto the end of through balls, or make incisive runs into the middle of the box. Kerr may be relatively small in stature, but she packs a punch in the air.

Reading breathed a sigh of relief at Kerr’s miss and began to set out their stall in impressive style. They were dogged and well organised in defence and pressed forward intelligently when they had the opportunity. They fashioned a chance of their own on ten minutes when Maz Pacheco’s header found Brooke Chaplen who was denied by Ann-Katrin Berger in the Chelsea goal.

Above: Drew Spence who appeared to be everywhere for Chelsea! Photo: Ben Gilby.

It was therefore not completely against the run of play when the Berkshire visitors took the lead five minutes later with a fantastic goal. Rachel Rowe’s long ball was chested down by Chaplan right into the path of Fara Williams who hit her effort well beyond the reach of Berger.

Any hope that Reading had of building on their lead was shot down in flames just minutes later. Sam Kerr chased onto a through ball and a total break down between defender and goalkeeper led to Grace Moloney racing out of her goal to simultaneously handle the ball outside the box and take out the onrushing Australian. The immediate appearance of a red card was unquestioned, as Kerr needed treatment on her shoulder which apparently caused her some discomfort for a fair while afterwards. With the Irish stopper dispatched from the pitch, the ‘Royals’ were forced to reshuffle in order to bring sub keeper Rachel Laws. It was Brooke Chaplen, so impressive for the Berkshire side in the early exchanges who was sacrificed.

Not surprisingly, Laws was soon tested. Ji So-Yun was becoming influential and had several opportunities, as did Beth England who forced a save from the new Reading keeper.

Above: Ji So-Yun sends a fierce effort goalward. Photo: Ben Gilby

As the half wore on, signs of a burgeoning partnership between England and Kerr grew – something which can only strike terror into WSL sides. It was perfectly highlighted by Chelsea’s equalising goal. Sophie Ingle picked up the ball deep in her own half and found England. The Lionesses star fed Kerr, who returned the favour with a fantastic flick without looking straight into England’s path. She took the ball on, drew Laws and hit it home. It was 1-1 at the break.

Above: Another superb performance from Beth England, named player of the match by the BBC. Photo: Ben Gilby

The opening period of the second half saw Reading contain the majority of Chelsea’s attacks. However, at times the Blues approach play was a joy to behold. Millie Bright played any number of millimetre perfect long cross field passes, and Drew Spence seemed to pop up everywhere to both halt Reading attacks and offer herself in Chelsea’s own offensive efforts.

Above: Millie Bright lays off another perfect pass. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Chelsea then conjured up a series of efforts that fell into the “how on earth did it stay out?” category as the ball pinballed around the box resulting in a series of fine blocks by Laws and scrambles off the line.

Reading couldn’t escape though, and shortly afterwards, Kerr was played through, Laws blocked the effort, but the ball fell to Guru Reiten who hit the rebound first time into the goal. It was a stunning piece of skill from the Norwegian international.

Above: Reading keeper Rachel Laws denies Sam Kerr, but Guro Reiten is about to follow up. Photo: Ben Gilby

As the game moved to its conclusion, the laudable efforts from Reading to stay in the game for so long with ten players came back to haunt them. Substitute Erin Cuthbert was rewarded for another magnificent cameo of grit and determination when she side footed in Chelsea’s third after Laws had made a super save from Beth England’s header.

The final chance fell to the visitors, but Ann-Katrin Berger did well to deny a great run and effort from Millie Farrow. There was also time for a brief debut appearance from Jamie-Lee Napier, the exciting new arrival from Hibernian.

Above: Chelsea’s Scottish star Erin Cuthbert (22) hits home the third goal. Photo: Ben Gilby

Reading can be proud of their efforts and it would have been fascinating to see what they may have earned had it not been for Moloney’s early dismissal. Chelsea kept their patience and showed enough flashes of supreme skill to earn the victory which ensured that it remains a thrilling three horse race for the WSL title.

To view the full photo file of 60 pictures from the game, click on this link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=166158044789325&set=pcb.166160448122418&type=3&theater

CHELSEA: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Ingle, Spence, Reiten, Ji, Kerr, England. Subs: Cuthbert (for Ingle), Blundell (for Kerr), Napier (for Mjelde), Orman, Carter, Cooper, Murphy.

Goals: England 40, Reiten 64, Cuthbert 75.

READING: Moloney, Rowe, Howard, Potter, Pacheco, Moore, James, Allen, Williams, Eikeland, Chaplen. Subs: Laws (GK for Chaplen – Moloney sent off), Harding (for Williams), Farrow (for James), Bartrip, Harding, Utland, Bennink, Skeels.

Goal: Williams 15.                            

Referee: Stacey Pearson.

Attendance: 2,828.

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