Reading FC Women fall to ruthless Manchester City

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Reading FC Women’s difficult start to the 2022/23 season continued as a ruthless second-half performance from Manchester City Women condemned the hosts to a fifth defeat in six league games.

After containing the visitors in the first-half, the dam broke in the second with Reading captain, Emma Mukandi, twice turning the ball into her own net within a seven-minute nightmare spell before Khadija Shaw’s bullet header to give City a 3-0 win.

Lauren Hemp was in inspired form, constantly asking questions of the Reading defence and being involved in every attacking play until the Lioness was mercifully taken off for the final 10 minutes.

Reading FC Women 0-3 Manchester City Women: Player ratings

The Royals had good spells at the start of the game and when 2-0 down but, ultimately, were thoroughly outplayed by their Champions League-chasing counterparts.

City had the first opening with Hemp driving a low cross into the box and Hayley Raso shooting narrowly wide of Jacqueline Burns’s right post. Reading grew into the game, looking dangerous on the counter-attack but were nearly undone by a City counter-attack of their own. A Reading free-kick was claimed by Sandy MacIver and the goalkeeper distributed quickly with Hemp crossing for Shaw who headed tamely at Burns.

The visitors perhaps should have done better in the 18th minute when Laura Coombs collected a one-two with Hemp on the edge of the area but shot wildly wide with time and space to test Burns.

Five minutes later, Hemp once again found space on the left-hand side and, approaching the edge of the box, flashed a shot just over the bar. Hemp was in the thick of it a few minutes later, heading wide after a good cross from Raso.

Five minutes before the break, Hemp twisted inside and outside of Charlie Wellings, and her cross was volleyed wide, via a deflection, by Shaw. The Reading defence was tested from the resultant corner but held firm to protect their goal.

Reading FC Women's Diane Caldwell. Photo: Neil Graham.
Reading FC Women’s Diane Caldwell. Photo: Neil Graham.

Just a few minutes later, Raso fortuitously found herself one-on-one with Burns after some ping-pong in midfield but her low shot from the edge of the area was well-saved by the Northern Irishwoman. The visitors were increasingly looking likely to break the deadlock but, it was a case of relief for the hosts, when the half-time whistle sounded with City recording a whopping 80% possession.

The second half began in the same vein as the first and, after a spell of pressure on the Reading defence, Hemp weaved her way into the box and shot firmly straight at Burns. A minute later, Deyna Castellanos shot wide from the edge of the box after good approach play from Hemp and Shaw.

The deadlock was finally broken after a surging run and cross from Hemp in the box was turned into her own net by Mukandi in the 53rd minute. It was no less than City and Hemp, in particular, deserved. On the hour mark, the Reading captain gained the unwanted distinction of putting it into her own net twice after Hemp’s strong run and fierce strike was palmed out by Burns into the onrushing Mukandi and into the empty net.

MacIver made her first real save of the game in the 72nd minute, Rachel Rowe shooting powerfully from the edge of the box and the City keep turning it away for a corner. After a flurry of corners for the hosts, Rowe was nearly entering the Women’s Super League ‘Goal of the Month’ competition again after volleying just over fully 35 yards from goal, causing Maciver to dive backwards in her attempt to tip the ball over.

This spell of pressure was emphatically broken in the 77th minute. Hemp, who had been kept quiet for a spell, racing at the Reading defence and passing to Mary Fowler on the left who crossed perfectly for Shaw to powerfully head home City’s third.

A few minutes later, Fowler almost scored herself, picking up the ball on the edge of the area and firing a few yards wide. City pushed hard to extend the margin of victory but some good interventions from Dianne Caldwell and Evans kept the deficit to three.

Reading remain three points above Leicester City in last spot and will hope to find some better form after the international break.

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