Chelsea Ladies battled back from two goals down to gain a point against Reading Women at Kingsmeadow in what was a thrilling affair. Reading produced a fantastic performance and can be proud of their efforts as they stopped Chelsea beating them for the second time in the league this season having drawn the reverse fixture last year. With only six fixtures remaining in WSL 1 for Chelsea, the dropped points have handed the initiative back to Manchester City who will return to the top of the table if they win their game in hand.

The resumption of Chelsea’s European campaign meant that Emma Hayes had to rotate more than she would have liked with the first leg having taken place on Wednesday and the second leg on the horizon this midweek. This meant that Carly Telford came in for a rare league start in goal, both wing backs were changed while Eni Aluko came in up front; replacing Ramona Bachmann.

The game’s early pattern saw the home side monopolise possession while creating a few half chances. Whenever Reading did get the ball, they were very direct in getting the ball forward. This tactic led to the opening goal of the game, a hopeful ball upfield and diligent pressing from Reading striker Brooke Chaplen saw the Royals get a fortunate corner, from that corner Jade Moore just managed to get to a knock down before Erin Cuthbert who hacked her down. The penalty was given and Chaplen sent Telford the wrong way to give Reading the lead.

Reading’s defensive shape was compact and Chelsea were finding it very difficult to create many opportunities. It took until just before the half time whistle for the Blues to show any response to going a goal down; Cuthbert won the ball high up the pitch, the ball fell to Kirby who played a rapid one two with Aluko, with Kirby bearing down on goal, everyone was expecting the ripple of the net. Instead, Kirby uncharacteristically smashed the ball over.

Chelsea wanted to start the second half with a renewed intensity but were sucker punched before they could even get in their stride. Just over a minute had passed in the half when a defensive mix up saw Fara Williams with time and space on the edge of Chelsea’s box, she produced a fantastic finish as she curled the ball into the far corner making it 2-0 to the visitors.

Chelsea hit back instantly; Kirby found herself down the right and she rolled the ball across the six-yard box for Jonna Andersson to put in off the underside of the bar. Chelsea upped their levels and committed more players forward, this nearly led to the concession of a third goal. Only an immaculate save from Telford who tipped a stinging shot on to the crossbar saved her side from going two goals down again.

The onslaught from Chelsea was expected as the game drew to a close, Kirby and Cuthbert both came close to scoring but couldn’t beat Reading keeper Mary Earps. That was until the 76th minute when Kirby was put through one and one and she finished with clinical accuracy. The equaliser added an extra zip to Chelsea’s play and they pushed on for the winner. Kirby found herself one on one again with Earps, but this time Earps won the battle as she stayed big and stopped Kirby from lifting the ball over her.

Chelsea thought they had got the three points with the final kick of the game, a deep free kick was bundled in by Drew Spence only for the referee to give a free kick to Reading for impeding the goalkeeper.

Although Chelsea did well to come back into the game, the draw was a huge blow to their title chances as Man City now holds its destiny in their own hands.

Player of the Match: Mary Earps (Reading) – Did everything she could to make sure Reading left London with at least a point, making save after save.

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