Aston Villa claimed a vital and hard-earned point at the death against sixth-placed Reading, extending the gap between themselves and the Barclays FA Women’s Super League’s bottom club Bristol City to five points with a game in hand.
At a very snowy Banks’s Stadium, Reading were by far the better team throughout the first half but were left to rue their missed chances as Villa twice came from behind to earn a point courtesy of a 2-2 draw. Gemma Davies’ side showed spirit and determination, spearheaded by current transfer window signing Mana Iwabuchi, who was electric on her first start for the club.
The visitors came flying out of the blocks and produced a goal in just the second minute, as Angharad James was first to a loose ball following a corner. Kelly Chambers’ side continued to threaten as the half went on and had plenty of changes to double their lead, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Aston Villa made them pay not long after the second half began with Nat Haigh’s clever free-kick finding Iwabuchi in the box, but The Royals responded instantly, going back ahead through Rachel Rowe. The game burst into life in the closing stages as the home side searched for another equaliser and in the 90th minute they found it, as Diana Silva turned the ball goalward after fantastic work from Iwabuchi once again.
Reading applied the pressure right from kick-off and were rewarded with a goal from their first attack. A Rowe corner fell to Jess Fishlock on the edge of the box, whose shot powerful shot had to be parried away by Lisa Weiss in goal. However, fellow Welsh international James was first to the rebound, heading it home to stun The Villains inside the opening minutes.
The Royals looked in full control as the half went on and much like Arsenal last weekend, Villa couldn’t cope with their relentless press, struggling to make it past the halfway line. Two further corners served as a stark warning for Villa, as Amalie Eikeland headed wide subsequently after Emma Mitchell’s shot from range had to be tipped over by Weiss but still Gemma Davies’ side couldn’t contain them.
Despite their dominance, however, Reading failed to capitalise and they entered the break ahead by just one goal, Villa no doubt breathing a sigh of relief that it wasn’t more.
A quieter opening to the second 45 minutes made way for a belter of a half after Villa found an equaliser 10 minutes in. It came courtesy of a bit of brilliance from Haigh, who sent a low free-kick into the box, catching the Reading defenders off guard and allowing Iwabuchi to fire home her first Villa goal.
Reading didn’t let the equaliser faze them though, responding instantly through Rowe to take the lead once again, after a lovely through ball from Fishlock. This spurred the visitors on as they searched for a third goal to put the game out of Villa’s reach, and they would have found it too, if it wasn’t for Weiss’ outstanding double save from close range.
The intensity picked up significantly as we reached the closing stages with Villa starting to apply to pressure in search of a late equaliser. The yellow ball was introduced as the snow intensified, impairing the players’ vision as Villa began to threaten.
In the final minute of normal time, as the three points were looking like Reading’s, Aston Villa found their equaliser to claim a late point. After some great interplay between substitute Shania Hayles and Iwabuchi, the Japanese international squared the ball to Silva, who poked it into the back of the net to secure Villa’s first home point of the season in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.