Alex Greenwood scores a penalty against Reading Women in the FA Cup

Reading Women 3 United Women 2

Manchester United Women put up a great fight in the SSE Women's FA Cup quarter-finals, twice taking the lead against Reading before eventually bowing out to the hosts from the top flight in heartbreaking fashion.

Icelandic international Rakel Hönnudóttir won it for the Royals in injury time at the end of extra time, after her team-mates Remi Allen and Rachel Furness cancelled out Alex Greenwood's penalty and Natasha Harding's own goal.

All five goals, then, came in the additional 30 minutes following a close-fought 90 minutes in which both sides - particularly the hosts at Wycombe Wanderers' Adams Park - missed good chances to break the deadlock.

Unusually for this inaugural campaign, Casey Stoney's Reds were often on the back foot in the first half with defenders such as Millie Turner and Martha Harris seeing more of the ball than the likes of striker Jess Sigsworth and top-scoring midfielder Mollie Green.
Mollie Green moves to challenge her opposite number, Reading's no.8 Remi Allen
Mollie Green moves to challenge her opposite number, Reading's no.8 Remi Allen
However, despite edging the battle for possession under the guidance of England veteran Faria Williams, the Royals only forced Sioban Chamberlain into a couple of notable saves. United's no.1 dived to her right to divert Furness's header from a free-kick and then prevented the subsequent corner sneaking in at the front post; both set pieces were taken by the talented Williams.

A header wide at the other end from Millie Turner, who did well to create space inside the box and meet Greenwood's inswinging corner from the right, was the Reds' best chance in the first half.

With heavy rain lashing down in the latter moments of the half, Lauren Bruton let one fly for Reading after surging forward, unchallenged, towards the edge of the area but fortunately for United, her shot curled wide. The final attack of the first period had the Reds' Leah Galton, in a rare raid down the right wing, whipping a ball across the goal but not finding a team-mate at the far post.
After 45 minutes in which a set piece looked by far the best route to breaking the deadlock, the only goalless quarter-final at this stage of the afternoon opened up measurably.

Brooke Chaplen was fed from a short free-kick for the hosts and swept in a low cross-cum-drive that Millie Turner did well to clear for a corner. Then United's Lauren James, who had come on for Kirsty Hanson at half-time, cut inside to unleash a shot that a defender deflected wide of grateful Grace Moloney's goal.

When Reading broke forward in response, Amy Turner was booked for bringing down Chaplen as the ball ran beyond the byline and Jade Moore leapt above two Reds defenders to head the resulting corner onto the top of the crossbar.

James jinked past several Royals players on the right wing and delivered an inviting cross that Galton could only just connect with on the stretch; the Reds remained on the front foot with Galton coming in from the left moments later to fire inches wide of the far post. 
Kirsty Hanson charges forward in attack against Reading Women
Kirsty Hanson charges forward in attack.
Chaplen remained a threat and after holding off a challenge by Millie Turner, Reading's no.19 struck a ferocious shot which Chamberlain had to push out for a corner from point-blank range.

Millie risked injury moments later when making a goal-saving tackle inside the box but the solid defender stayed on, with attacker Ella Toone eventually becoming the second Red to be replaced as Kirsty Smith entered the fray. The substitute went to left-back with Greenwood moving forward into midfield.

Bruton was booked for a cynical trip on Sigsworth in the 70th minute; by this time the weather had totally changed again, with bright sunshine beaming down on Buckinghamshire as the crowd began to think about extra-time and possibly penalties being needed.

Six minutes from the end of normal time, Furness dropped a pass over the United defence but Allen spurned the opportunity to seal victory for Reading by smashing her half-volley well wide. The no.8's body language suggested she knew just how big an opening it had been.
Millie Turner tackles Lauren Bruton
Millie Turner almost certainly denied Lauren Bruton a goal with this brilliant tackle.
Into injury time, and Furness missed an arguably better chance with her free header that went wide, before Chamberlain did just enough to steer Williams' scorching free-kick way from her goal.

Furness's woes were compounded early in extra time when she was shown the yellow card for clattering Katie Zelem inside the centre circle but Williams was guilty of a more costly foul, clipping James's heels as the United youngster broke into the box. Greenwood stepped up to slam home the penalty and for almost two minutes, it seemed the Reds were all set for the semi-finals.

The two players who should have won it for the Royals in normal time combined for their equaliser, Furness crossing from the right and Allen directing a looping header over Chamberlain and Millie Turner who ended up, like the ball, in the back of their net. James was booked shortly after as Reading ended the first half of extra time looking the stronger side.

If the defending could have been better for Reading's leveller, then the same could be said for the next two goals which were scored in breathtakingly quick succession.
Casey Stoney addresses her players at the end of the game
Casey Stoney rallies her squad.
First, the Reds regained the lead with Sigsworth's right-wing cross causing Harding to head into her own net after the intended target Green missed it. Then the Royals responded instantly again as a cross from Williams beat two Reds at the far post, Allen headed it back across goal and Furness swept the ball home from close range.

Hearts were in mouths among the Manchester contingent when another Williams delivery, this time from a corner, went all the way into Chamberlain's net but just when the home side and their supporters thought they had gone 3-2 up, the referee blew for a foul on the United keeper and the freakish 'goal' was disallowed.

There was a tale of two free-kicks at the end of extra-time with Moloney marginally tipping Greenwood's attempt wide at one end and then Williams striking hers straight down the middle at the other. Chamberlain blocked the effort in the 121st minute but Royals substitute Hönnudóttir reacted quickest and just managed to force the loose ball over the line as Allen challenged the Reds' no.1.

It was an agonising end to a pulsating contest, United being defeated when a penalty shoot-out was just seconds away. Now Stoney's side must switch back to league action and two more away games in the south - at Charlton next Sunday and then that six-pointer against current Championship leaders Tottenham.

MATCH DETAILS

United: 
Chamberlain, Harris, A. Turner, M. Turner, Greenwood, Green, Zelem, Toone (Smith 71), Galton, Sigsworth, Hanson (James 46). Subs not used: Ramsey, Palmer, Devlin, Arnot.

Goals: United - Greenwood pen. 98, Holding o.g. 107 | Reading - Allen 100, Furness 108, Hönnudóttir 120.

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