Game, Set-Piece & Match
With just three games left to play – including matches against Arsenal and Chelsea – MANCHESTER CITY picked up three vital points with a 2-0 win over Reading on Sunday as the stop-start WSL1 season got underway yet again over the Bank Holiday weekend.
These enforced breaks can be particularly frustrating for a team like Man City who are known for their free-flowing, attacking style as it can disrupt the momentum and rhythm the side builds up through playing regularly each week.
And recent form suggests that Birmingham wouldn’t have capitulated so easily in the game against Chelsea if their match had been played before the break.
This was something Reading sought to take advantage of as they packed their defence to stifle the City attack while hoping to catch them out on the counter.
And for the first forty five minutes these tactics worked quite well as the Reading defence – led by captain Kirsty McGee – were calm and well-organized as they passed the ball around with great confidence.
Ironically, it was a miss-placed pass from Remi Allen that led to City’s best chance in the first half when Jane Ross rattled the crossbar from the edge of the area after Daphne Corboz picked up the loose ball to start the move.
Minutes later Bronze took a pass from Corboz and made a good run down the right wing before sending over a cross that was headed wide of the goal by Ross.
With the attack still working on its sharpness City proved once again that they are able to change their options when need be and the defenders stepped up to the plate – as they have done many times in the past – and went for a more direct route to goal.
This paid off just after the break when Jen Beattie out-jumped everyone the crowded Reading penalty area to finish off a free kick delivered with pin-point accuracy by Toni Duggan.
Reading never really threatened City’s goal but they were unlucky with a penalty shout in the first half when Beattie flattened Rowe which could have put the Royals one up.
City doubled their lead two minutes from time from another set-piece when Ross was dragged down by McGee on the edge of the box and free kick specialist Steph Houghton angled a shot around the wall and into the corner of the net.
On a day when defenders grabbed the headlines it was fitting that the Player Of The Match award went to Lucy Bronze – a player whose constantly high performances are sometimes taken for granted. And even Karen Bardsley seemed to embrace the new philosophy at the club at one point when she ventured outfield to play sweeper-keeper.
The FA have already announced their intention to alter the format of the WSL for the 2017 season. Clubs, fans and players alike will hope it’s a vast improvement on the current stuttering set-up