It was an afternoon of frustation for both Reading and Arsenal as the southern WSL teams failed to break each other down and were consigned to a scoreless draw.
A brief spell of pressure in the opening seconds was the best the hosts could muster in the first ten minutes, Arsenal needing little time to settle away from home. Getting the ball down and doing their best to ping it around, the Gunners began to dictate play, looking to go one better than their last-gasp winner last time out against the same opposition.
A light flick from Heather O’Rilley should have been enough to set Vivianne Miedema up with the opener though the Dutch forward failed to connect at the opportune moment. Miedema involved again moments later when Jordan Nobbs whipped the ball into at a free-kick, the striker connecting though sending the ball wide of Grace Moloney’s near post.
Striding through the final third, the rangy attacker was again at the forefront of Arsenal’s best chances, a perfectly timed sliding tackle from Harriet Scott all to keep her from pulling the trigger. The ball was still alive and recycled by the visitors, struggling for space to attack as the hosts got back to cover the final product came from Miedema once more, her close-range header held by Moloney.
A run of corners for the Royals did little to change the scoreline though the hosts could happily boast more of a footing in the game, the match more open as it headed towards the half-hour mark. A low shot from Brooke Chaplen went wide before Lauren Bruton failed to pull the trigger before being depossessed as the chance opened up for her. Arsenal still saw the better of the chances, a delicate touch from Nobbs enough to flick the ball over her marker before playing in Beth Mead. Mead though, like the majority of her teammates, struggled with her touch, the ball skipping away from her and into Moloney’s grateful grasp as she dashed into the box.
A rash of stoppages stemmed the flow of the game, both defences still doing enough to keep the opposition out when they carved out half-chances. The brightest first half moment for the Royals, five minutes before the break when Natasha Harding streaked down the right before feeding the ball into the box Chaplen’s header over the bar. The deadlock was nearly broken at the other end two minutes later as Louise Quinn nodded Nobbs’ free kick into Moloney’s gloves. The frustration showing as Dominque Jansen picked up the ball and chanced her arm from 25-yards, the ball arcing down into Moloney’s gloves as Helen Byrne blew for half time.
A fine low save from Moloney was enough to keep the hosts out at the start of the second half, the game ebbing and flowing as it had before the break, a failed connection from Harding keeping the parity. A bit of argy-bargy between Miedema and Scott saw the Royals win a free kick in an advantageous position on the hour, Harding’s header bouncing wide much to the frustration of the home fans.
Sloppy fouls began to punctuate play as the ball moved from one end of the pitch to the other, both sides hungry for the opening goal but neither able to find an attack of substance. O’Reilly failed to connect with Nobbs’ floated cross before Fara Williams’s driven effort from 30-yards slammed directly into Sari van Veenendaal’s midriff. A lapse in concentration saw Chaplen played in, her snapshot parried away by the Dutch number one, the chance the highpoint of the second half.
With nothing to separate the two as the game wore into the last ten minutes, Miedema saw her low effort deflected just wide of the far post, the follow-up corner another to be forgotten. The pattern repeated moments later when Mead saw her effort from the left nicked just wide, the resulting corner nodded into the ground, for Moloney to claim, by Danielle van de Donk. Chaplen denied the chance to be the hero in the last knockings when Jansen slid in to send the ball behind. The final seconds of regular time ticked by, Miedema’s late effort rolling into the sidenetting after sterling work from Mead, the last chance as unspectacular as the match.