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Manchester United 0-2 Reading

Manchester United hadn't lost at home in a year, but nobody told Kelly Chambers' side.

The most notable change was Lily Woodham coming in at left-back, meaning Emma Mitchell moved over to the right. Mitchell was instrumental, with her set pieces being the difference. Late on she also made a couple of crucial tackles in quick succession inside her own penalty area. The only real blot on her copybook was a couple of fouls she gave away in dangerous positions.

Reading's first goal came from a corner on the right-hand side. They packed the six-yard box, as they so often do, with the help of a fair number of Manchester United shirts in amongst it. Mitchell's inswinger was helped on its way by Eikeland at the near post and ended up looping up for Harding to turn in. There were questions over whether it had hit Carter's arm on the way through but that just goes to show how stupid it is to have a handball rule that requires VAR to enforce it.

Cooper's run is completely lost by Sigsworth

Just two minutes later Mitchell had another chance to deliver, this time from a free-kick on the left. A beautiful delivery picked out Danielle Carter, but Manchester United will feel they could have done more to stop it. Jessica Sigsworth was clearly supposed to be marking Carter but didn't track the run at all, giving her a free header from four yards out. (Reading's combined distance for the two goals would have put them on the six-yard box).

In the first half Reading's central defenders took more responsibility to play forward than we've seen in recent weeks. Cooper looked to break the lines, with Bartrip tending to opt for the long ball into the left channel for Harding to chase. The former led the team in progressive passes (6) and passes into the final third (5). Fishlock did drop deeper to pick up the ball, but she wasn't the only option as we've so often seen.

Reading used the midfield dropping deep to manoeuvre the ball to the open centre back

As the game entered the second period Reading made an adjustment. Instead of relying on the defence to go forward, the midfield started to drop into space to negotiate the ball around the press. The aptly named Christen Press cut off the passing lane between the centre backs, but Reading were easily able to manoeuvre the ball into midfield and back out to the unmarked CB.

Not to sound all Tim Dellor, but the way Reading play out from goal kicks gives me the jitters. Moloney tapping the ball for Fishlock to bring out tends to lead to Reading turning the ball over, but at least Fishlock was finding Reading targets on this occasion. We've often seen those balls go astray and put the side under real pressure.

But thankfully we were (finally?) treated to how it's meant to work an hour in. Fishlock found Mitchell in the space centrally, still under heavy pressure, but she was able to turn and ping it beyond the Manchester United defence - who were caught three-on-three due to the way they were putting pressure on the goal kick. The sequence ended with a well-struck volley tipped over from Earps in the Manchester United goal, and Reading scored from the resulting corner kick.

Harding's running down a dead end. She's not quick enough to beat the player but equally has no support.

The away side still had some issues with Harding and Carter being isolated up front, particularly in wider areas. Carter held the ball up against the touchline without any help a couple of times, while Harding tended to run down a dead-end down the left. In truth, the scoreline belies the fact that The Royals created very little from open play. After the second goal, Reading almost completely shut up shop. Harries was left up top on her own, while the remaining ten fought to keep only their fourth win of the season.

As does the fact that Moloney still had to pull off a couple of outstanding saves to keep her clean sheet intact. Leah Galton's volley was well saved with her feet, before a diving save down to her right stopped the ball from nestling in the corner following Ona Batlle's. United also had a couple of big chances where they picked out Moloney. Galton, who was probably United's most influential player, couldn't get the angle on a header in the first half that was easily saved by the goalkeeper.

Reading go into the game against Everton level on points with the side above them, and, while The Toffees have games in hand, a win would be a huge boost. In a season where they've struggled to pick up three points, it would move them up into fifth - however temporarily - and give the season a bit more life.


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