Aston Villa rode out a hard-fought draw against Women’s Super League opponents Reading at the Banks’s Stadium this afternoon.
It looked like it could be a long afternoon for the Villains when they conceded after just three minutes, but perseverance paid off. A couple of moments of magic from new signing Mana Iwabuchi meant the battle in the snow ended 2-2.
Angharad James opened the scoring with an opportunistic header, nodding the ball neatly over Lisa Weiss after Jess Fishlock’s initial shot was saved by the Villa keeper.
Cushioned by the lead, Reading dominated the first half. The Royals confident in possession, experimenting in their set pieces and taking chances with some long-range shots.
Emma Mitchell and James both came close to scoring from range in the first half. By contrast, Villa initially struggled to string passes together and were easily undone by the visiting team’s constant pressure. However, they were kept in the game by some good saves from Weiss and no-nonsense defending from Anita Asante and Elisha N’Dow. At half-time, only James’ goal separated the teams.
Villa started the second half with much more intent. Although Reading kept up their strong performance, the home side were rewarded in the 54th minute.
A cleverly taken free-kick from Natalie Haigh sent a low ball right to the feet of Iwabuchi, who tapped in her first goal for Villa and brought the two sides level.
Fighting for a win in the snow
Stung by conceding, Reading put their foot back on the gas and regained the lead again just three minutes later. As the snow began to descend thick and fast, a lovely ball from Fishlock disarmed the Villa defence. Rachel Rowe just about managed to get the ball out from under her feet to fire in the goal.
The remainder of the game was end-to-end. Passing and possession became increasingly scrappy and shambolic as the snow decreased visibility and started to settle on the pitch.
Stine Larson broke away and made a great run, but Villa substitute Shania Hayles couldn’t turn fast enough to capitalise on the chance she created. Just a minute later Eikeland had a huge chance to put the game to bed for Reading but couldn’t get the shot away.
In the end, Gemma Davies’ side punished a last-minute lapse in concentration from Reading to snatch a point at the death. Sluggish defending allowed Iwabuchi to thread a pass through to substitute Diana Silva, who got just enough of a connection to roll her first WSL goal past Grace Moloney.
This is a huge point for Aston Villa, but one that will feel more like a loss for Reading. The Royals will be frustrated they gave away their lead, despite enjoying so much possession and dominating Villa for large sections of the game.