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Reading 3-1 Aston Villa

Reading put last weekend's hammering at the hands of Arsenal behind them with a win against newly promoted Aston Villa.

Reading kept the 4-3-3 that they adopted in the second half against The Gunners (although it could be described as a 4-3-1-2 if you were being particularly pedantic). Fara Williams conducted play from the base of midfield, while Fishlock and James played just advanced of her. After a difficult match last out for Fishlock, she looked much more assured with what she was asked to do on Sunday. She made more successful pressures than anybody on the pitch, despite being Reading's only substitution after 73 minutes, and consistently moved the ball forward after winning it back.

Carter pulls out wide, and Eikeland runs into the space left

Carter was again bright. Good with the ball at her feet, her main issue is occasional tunnel vision. It was her skill that won Reading the penalty for their third. Eikeland seems tireless, and can carry the ball into space well but seems to have an issue playing with her back to goal. She looked brightest attempting to run in behind, scoring her goal that way - and having a couple of glorious opportunities back-to-back in the second half. To sum up her game, her 1.1 xG makes up for more than a third of Reading's total, but so does the 11 times she lost the ball.

With both of those willing to run and the passing ability in midfield, it's only logical that The Royals continually look for balls over the top for them to run on to. The only issue was Reading were a little eager making those runs, seeing the assistant referee's flag raised nine times.

Meanwhile, Lauren Bruton had her first start since May 2019 and got into good positions. Weiss saved well after she diverted a Natasha Harding cross goalward, but the keeper could do nothing as she went top shelf from Emma Mitchell on the other side. In the second half a poor touch (and a subpar ball from Carter) robbed her of a 1-on-1 at the end of a fast Reading break. She can be a bit rash in a challenge - already picking up two bookings in the opening two weekends.

All three strikers occupying largely the same space. Bruton even tells Eikeland to make a run right. Carter forced into shooting from distance.

With Bruton's injury, Eikeland joining last season, and Carter this offseason they haven't played together, and it does show at points. Making similar runs, or not having that second sense for where their striker partners will be. Eikeland sits slightly deeper, and then bursts through the middle after Carter or Bruton make a run into the channel but she ran into whoever had stayed central on a couple of occasions.

Reading took twenty-five shots, but most of those could hardly have been called chances. Fara Williams had four attempts from over 30-yards, Danielle Carter had one. Another five were 20-30 yards out. When you have players like Williams on your team, it makes sense to chance your arm - particularly when goalkeeping is a very different challenge in the women's game. Aston Villa's goalkeeper, Lisa Weiss is 5'7" - as we saw last weekend when Miedema struck into the top of the goal from just outside the box, it's very difficult to stop. It's worth pointing out though that all three of Reading's goals came from the penalty spot or closer.

Moloney rushes out to put pressure on Diana Silva and makes a good tackle.

Aston Villa looked dangerous in patches, but never truly forced Grace Moloney into a save from open play, although they did have another goal dubiously chalked off toward the end that would have made the last few minutes particularly nervous. Moloney's main inconvenience was having to venture out of her area to mop up balls over the top, which helps make up for some of the pace deficiencies in the back four.

Maybe Kelly Chambers' reluctance to make substitutions is well known in the women's game, but to an outsider it's incredibly odd that Reading have only made used three substitutes over two games - especially given that they're still allowed five in the WSL. The others on the bench seem to mainly be youth players, but 3-0 up with fifteen minutes to play seemed like a good chance to give some a run out or allow new signing Jeon Ga-eul to build up some match fitness.

There's now a three week gap in the fixtures before Reading play again, and next up are the only other team to have played Arsenal so far, West Ham. They were beaten 9-1, which helps to put last week's result into context, but the London side were reduced to 10 for almost an hour. The Royals did the double over in the league last season, including coming back from 2-0 down in the last fifteen minutes - after being reduced to 10 in first half stoppage time.


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