Arsenal Ladies came back with three precious points after their 2-1 away win at Adams Park yesterday in horrendous weather to keep the gap to League leaders Chelsea and Manchester City at three points.
As usual Pedro Losa made a wholesale of changes in the starting line-up and Josephine Henning made her long-awaited debut at centre-back, taking over from Jemma Rose, who has had a poor start of the season.
Starting XI: Van Veenendaal; Scott, Henning, Stoney, Williamson; Janssen, Nobbs, Losada; Carter, Natalia, McCabe.
Subs: Williams, Corredera, Oshoala
Unused subs: Byrne, Rose, Mitchell, Van De Donk.
As expected, Arsenal took control of the game with Reading set-up on defending and having rare sporadic attacks while Arsenal had the lion’s share of the possession. The weather made it difficult to play with speed and precision as the heavy rain meant players were slipping on the pitch at times. Vicky Losada had a very good game alongside a sensational Danielle Carter, who must be in line for a recall for the England seniors.
Arsenal were very much in control but it was difficult to break down the resolute Reading defence, creating half-chances or shots that were covered by the Reading goalie. Then, on the half-hour mark, Jordan Nobbs was unmarked 25 yards from the goal and unleashed a rocket that the Reading keeper touched but did not manage to push out away from the net for the 1-0.
Half-time was reached with Arsenal well in control of the game with no real danger.
The second half started the same way as the first half with Arsenal dominating play and creating chances. It was no surprise that a second goal came in, from a set piece with Dominique Janssen heading it past Moloney in the middle of a strangely passive Reading defence in the 60th minute.
So when you are 2-0 up and cruising, you can start subbing your main players and give a game to others. That seems a logical thing to do in term of game management.
Hence, Jordan Nobbs subbed in the 63rd minute and replaced in the number 8 position by Fara Williams. You know the shivering feeling that goes round the Emirates Stadium when Arteta or Flamini come on the pitch. Well, the same thing happened last night in Wycombe.
The team started to drop deeper, there was no more attacking transition as the link between defense and attack has gone away. The team seemed to be split into the six defensive players and the four forwards.
Reading were very grateful for the invite and went on full attacking mode, putting a lot of pressure on the Arsenal defence. And when Alex Scott was replaced at right-back by Marta Corredera, the Royals scored straight away from an attack on that flank as Emma Follis went past a couple of players to finish a well-engineered move. 2-1 and game on.
The last part of the game was a frantic attack versus defence. Both sides went close to scoring: Asisat Oshoala for Arsenal managed to go round the keeper, but her shot went above the crossbar.
A draw would have been a disaster, but the three points allow the Arsenal to keep their hopes up in the title race. As soon as City and Chelsea slip-up, the Ladies will have to pounce on those mistakes to draw level on points with the two leaders.
A special mention to the two stewards at the game in my stand, who were not interested in policing it, as they went to sit in it as soon as the heavy rain started. They let a guy sitting just behind them abuse the referee and his assistant for most of the game without having a word, to my disbelief. Midway through the second half a group of girls decided to move away from that obnoxious character as they had enough of his constant shouting and swearing.