@BarclaysFAWSL
MATCH INFO:

Chelsea 5, Reading FC 0

GOALS:

Fran Kirby 16’, 23’, 45+2’, 53’

Ji So-Yun 86’

If there’s one thing we learned from Sunday morning’s tilt between Chelsea and Reading FC, it’s that Fran Kirby is determined to make 2021 her year. The forward notched a perfect hat trick in the first half, scoring first with her left foot, then with her right foot, and finally with her head.

Kirby went on to add a fourth goal in the early minutes of the second half, paving the way to a dominant win that helped Chelsea advance to second place in the table. Ji So-Yun logged a goal of her own to bring the score to 5-0 in favor of the Blues.

Here’s how the action unfolded:

Setting the tone only sixteen minutes into the first half, Sam Kerr challenged a Reading defender in the air and redirected a header to Kirby. Kirby, who was already making a darting run towards the box, took the assist in stride and cut the ball to her right foot, avoiding an attempted charge from Reading goalkeeper Grace Moloney. With an open net now before, Kirby tapped in the first FAWSL goal of 2021 to give Chelsea a 1-0 advantage.

Seven minutes later, Fran Kirby struck again — this time getting a foot in front of a clearance attempt by Reading defender Emma Mitchell. In a showcase of her speed and skill on the ball, Kirby beat Mitchell with several quick touches, cutting the ball toward the penalty spot and burying a shot into the lower 90 to record the brace and extend Chelsea’s lead to 2-0.

Whispers of a Fran Kirby hat trick began to circulate as soon as her second goal brushed the back of the net, and unsurprisingly, she would deliver. Seconds before the whistle blew to end the first half, Kerr lofted a cross into the Reading box, meeting the head of Kirby. The forward flicked the cross past Moloney and into the net, notching a first-half hat trick against her former squad and providing Chelsea a substantial 3-0 cushion with only 45 minutes gone.

As for Reading, the squad looked less than prepared to handle Chelsea’s advances, as had been a worry heading into the match. Kirby’s first two goals caught their defenders too far up the field and unable to recover, leaving Moloney as their sole line of defense against the lethal Chelsea offense. Reading concluded the first half with only two shots on goal, none of which were on target, a feat that simply cannot be afforded should the Royals want to remain competitive at sixth place in the table. It goes without saying that Reading needed to piece together a near-perfect showing in the second half to cut into Chelsea’s three-goal lead.

Unfortunately for the Royals, however, Kirby was not yet finished with her statement performance as the second half began. In the 53rd minute, Chelsea was awarded a corner kick. On the receiving end of the ball? Fran Kirby, of course. As the former Royal headed home her fourth goal of the match, Reading’s hopes of a comeback campaign were extinguished as Chelsea improved their lead to 4-0.

Also etching her name on the scoresheet for Chelsea was Ji So-Yun, who settled an attempted clearance by the Reading defense, cut the ball to her left foot and buried Chelsea’s fifth goal of the match in the 86th minute. As the clock wound down, Reading was unable to mount a scoring chance and would ultimately be shut out by the Blues, 5-0.

With the win, Chelsea continues their undefeated streak into the new year, now boasting a 7-0-2 record and 23 points. Next weekend’s showdown against Manchester United will now pit the top two teams in FAWSL against each other, with a win for Chelsea bringing them level with United at the top of the table.