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Player ratings as Blues survive Royals fightback



Chelsea survived a second half fight back from a gutsy Reading to ensure they finished 2022 top of the WSL after a 3-2 victory at a snowy Kingsmeadow on Sunday.

A Fran Kirby goal and a Jelana Cankovic brace had given the Blues a comfortable 3-0 lead at the break, only for Reading to score twice in the space of two second half minutes through Sanne Troelsgaard Nielsen and Amalie Eikeland to set up a grandstand finish.

A fairytale equaliser could not be found, but Kelly Chambers’ side had plenty to be proud of despite ultimately leaving west London empty handed.


Reading went toe to toe with Chelsea in a competitive opening quarter of an hour. Gemma Evans popped up with a goal line block to deny Cankovic as the WSL’s third from bottom side held firm, while carrying a threat on the counter attack.

However, the deadlock was broken after 16 minutes following a smart bit of thinking from Cankovic, as she fed Johanna Rytting Kaneryd with a quickly taken free kick. The ball was squared to, Kirby who coolly finished. Reading were left aggrieved as replays showed Rytting Kaneryd to be offside in the build up.

Rytting Kaneryd was again involved as Chelsea doubled their lead just before the half hour mark. Her fizzing effort cannoned off the cross bar, Reading failed to clear and Cankovic reacted quickest to fire home.

The Blues added a third four minutes later, Sophie Ingle and Fran Kirby involved in a flowing team move, Erin Cuthbert providing a cross from the right and Cankovic wrapping up her pretty perfect first half by powering home a header.


With Chelsea leading 3-0 at the break, you feared the floodgates could open and it would be a case of damage limitation for Reading. The opposite happened, and the Royals instead embarked on an unlikely comeback.

Reading pulled one back after an hour, Millie Bright turning the lively Emma Harries’s cross into the path of Troelsgaard Nielsen, whose effort squirmed through the gloves of Ann-Katrin Berger.

Reading really began to make Chelsea sweat as they netted a second just a minute later. Harries was again in the heart of the action, getting the better of Niamh Charles and feeding Eikeland, who poked home. Game on, with half an hour left on the clock.

The dogged Royals threw everything at Chelsea as they searched for what would be a remarkable equaliser, but the Blues managed to see the game out to ensure they sit top of the pile heading into 2023.

Chelsea FC v Reading - Barclays Women's Super League

Chelsea lined up in a 4-3-3 / Harriet Lander – Chelsea FC/GettyImages

GK: Ann-Katrin Berger – 5/10 – Allowed the ball to squirm under her body for Reading’s first, having hardly had a save to make in the opening 45.

RB: Eve Perisset – 7/10 – Linked up really well with Rytting Kaneryd, and the right flank was a constant source of danger for Chelsea.

CB: Millie Bright – 6/10 – Stretched to make an important interception and keep out a Harries cross in the first half. Her distribution and cross field passes were exceptional. Fluffed a clearance which led to Reading’s second.

CB: Magdalena Eriksson – 6/10 – Back in a more natural centre back role following a spell at left back. Saw the ball played in behind herself and Charles for Reading’s first, struggling to cope with the pace of Harries.


LB: Niamh Charles – 6/10 – A tireless performance – up and down the left flank, smart and efficient in possession. Had a tough time defensively in the second half, losing out to Harries in the build up to Reading’s second.

CM: Sophie Ingle – 7/10 – Won the ball back in the build up to Chelsea’s second and third goal, springing the counter attack for the third.

CM: Erin Cuthbert – 7/10 – Provided the pinpoint cross for Chelsea’s third goal after combining well with Kirby. Sliced an effort from range narrowly wide late in the first half.

CM: Jelena Cankovic – 8/10 – Enjoyed a fabulous first half performance, taking the quickly taken free kick for her side’s first, and on the scoresheet with a low drive and bullet header. Oozed confidence throughout – not a bad first WSL start.


RW: Johanna Rytting Kaneryd – 8/10 – Had a hand in Chelsea’s first and second goal, picking out Kirby and cracking the post with a fizzing drive.

ST: Bethany England – 6/10 – Put in a big shift up top, but unable to get on the scoresheet, being denied by an Evans block in the first half. Replaced with 20 minutes remaining.

LW: Fran Kirby – 8/10 – Opened the scoring against her former club with a smart finish, involved in the third after linking up with Cuthbert.

SUB: Jess Carter (67′ for Charles) – 6/10


SUB: Sam Kerr (70′ for England) – 6/10

SUB: Jessie Fleming (70′ for Cankovic) – 6/10

SUB: Guro Reiten (81′ for Rytting Kaneryd) – 6/10

Amalie Eikeland, Erin Cuthber

Amalie Eikeland and Erin Cuthbert go toe to toe / Andrew Redington/GettyImages

GK: Jackie Burns – 6/10 – Claimed a couple of potentially dangerous crosses, and couldn’t do a great deal about any of Chelsea’s goals.


RB: Faye Bryson – 5/10 – Had a bit of a tough time of it against the relentless Kirby and Charles.

CB: Deanne Cooper – 6/10 – Made a heroic diving block to keep out a second half Cuthbert effort. A full blooded performance against her former club.

CB: Gemma Evans – 6/10 – In the thick of the action: made a superb goal line block to keep out Cankovic in the early exchanges, but failed to clear her lines for Chelsea’s second, before making another brave block to deny England.

LB: Lily Woodham – 6/10 – Struggled to cope with Chelsea’s dangerous right flank of Perisset and Rytting Kaneryd at times in the first half, but dug in and was considerably more resolute in the second as Reading really frustrated the Blues.


DM: Justine Vanhaevermaet – 7/10 – Saw a sweetly struck effort fly narrowly over in the first half. Broke up play effectively.

CM: Tia Primmer – 5/10 – Failed to clear her lines in the build up to Chelsea’s second. A tenacious performance against Chelsea’s dynamic midfield three. Forced off with injury before the hour mark.

CM: Sanne Troelsgaard Nielsen – 7/10 – Netted her side’s first, reacting quickest to the loose ball and seeing her effort squirm under Berger.

CM: Amalie Eikeland – 7/10 – Timed her run to perfection to linger on the edge of the box and poke home her side’s second. A real source of danger throughout, driving her team forward.


ST: Lauren Wade – 6/10 – A relentless shift up front as Reading’s front two asked plenty of questions of the Chelsea backline. Replaced with 15 minutes remaining.

ST: Emma Harries – 8/10 – Carried a threat on the break and instrumental in Reading’s first and second goal with a burst down the right flank and low delivery.

SUB: Rachel Rowe (57′ for Primmer) – 7/10

SUB: Emma Mukandi (67′ for Bryson) – 6/10


SUB: Charlie Wellings (75′ for Wade) – 6/10

Player of the match: Jelena Cankovic (Chelsea)

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Johnson to Toronto, Freese to NYCFC



The MLS transfers are heating up as the 2023 campaign approaches. Here’s everything you missed:

Sean Johnson

Sean Johnson joins Toronto FC. / Ira L. Black – Corbis/GettyImages

Sean Johnson is headed to Toronto FC. 

The Reds signed the goalkeeper as a free agent using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). He joined through the 2024 Major League Soccer season.


“Sean has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in MLS, given his club and international career,” Toronto head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley said in a release. 

“Sean continues to demonstrate his elite shot-stopping ability, athleticism, and decision-making in important moments and the biggest games.”

Johnson departs New York City FC after five years, where he helped the team lift their first league trophy. He entered the league in 2010 through the MLS SuperDraft, and spent six years with Chicago Fire FC before joining NYCFC. 

Overall, he’s recorded 355 regular-season MLS matches. 

Matt Freese

Matt Freese joins NYCFC. / Ira L. Black – Corbis/GettyImages

Matt Freese replaces Sean Johnson at NYCFC. 

The Eastern Conference team announced the signing of goalkeeper Matt Freese, just as Johnson joins Toronto FC.

NYCFC completed a trade with the Philadelphia Union for the goalkeeper, in exchange for a guaranteed $350,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM). The Union will also receive a percentage of a future transfer fee and could get an additional $400k in conditional GAM.

“We are delighted to have been able to finalize this acquisition and would like to welcome Matt to New York,” NYCFC sporting director David Lee said in a release.


“He is an extremely talented American goalkeeper who is coming into the best years of his career. He is an excellent shot-stopper, and we believe is ready to take the next step in his career and we are excited to see his continued development at NYCFC.”

Freese previously served as the backup goalkeeper at the Union, standing behind Andre Blake.

Emerson Rodriguez

Emerson Rodriguez joins Santos Laguna on loan. / Andrew Katsampes/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Inter Miami have loaned winger Emerson Rodriguez to Liga MX’s Santos Laguna through the end of 2023. 

He departs after one goal in 22 league appearances for Inter Miami, and three goals for the MLS NEXT Pro affiliate Inter Miami CF II. He’s expected to see a lot more playing time under Eduardo Fentanes, as Santos Laguna’s squad needs bolstering.

Amro Tarek

Amro Tarek joins Austin FC. / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

Austin FC have signed Amro Tarek through the 2023 MLS season with an option for 2024.

He last played for Al Masry SC in the Egyptian Premier League, moving overseas in 2021 after two-and-a-half seasons at the New York Red Bulls. He also saw loan spells with Columbus Crew in 2016 and Orlando City SC in 2018, contributing to two goals and one assist across 66 MLS regular-season appearances.

The versatile defender can also play left back.

“I’m excited by the opportunity to play for Austin FC and to help the team toward its goal of winning trophies this season,” Tarek said in a release. “Everything I have seen about the club, from the fans and the facilities to the players and the coaching staff, has been first-class, and I can’t wait to get started.


“I’m also very grateful to my former club, and for their understanding of my family situation and why this move made sense for me at this time. I look forward to getting started.”

Tarek will not occupy an international roster spot since he was born in the United States. 

“Amro is an athletic, left-footed center back who adds another option to our talented group of defenders as we prepare to compete in four different competitions during the 2023 season,” Austin interim sporting director Sean Rubio said in a release. 

“We wish him a warm welcome to the club and to the city of Austin.”


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Moises Caicedo appears to post farewell message to Brighton



Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo appeared to post a farewell message to the club on Friday night, only hours after Arsenal had a £60m bid rejected.

The Seagulls, who are sixth in the Premier League, have no interest in selling Caicedo this month and 90min has reported they are not looking to entertain further bids.

Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi seemed to suggest on at his Friday press conference that Caicedo’s preference would be to leave but that he and the club are trying to persuade him otherwise.


“I spoke with him on Wednesday and I told him my opinion. It is always difficult to change during the season. For our way, it is important for him to stay a few more months,” De Zerbi explained.

“He is relaxed. I spoke with him like a father, not a coach. I understand when one player has the possibility to change to a very big team. But my work is to give the style of play but also advice for his career and his life.”

Speaking about his own future recently, Caicedo had said that his focus is on Brighton.

“I am here, I’m playing every day. Things from outside don’t trouble me, nor does it take that focus away because I’m focussed only on here,” he commented.


Yet taking to social media now, Caicedo made clear a desire to leave Brighton and speaking of his pride at being able to bring in a huge fee in what came across as an attempt to force the club’s hand.

“I am grateful to Mr. Bloom and Brighton for giving me the chance to come to the Premier League and I feel I have always done my best for them. I always play football with a smile and with heart. I am the youngest of 10 siblings from a poor upbringing in Santa Domingo in Ecuador,” he posted.

“My dream always to be the most decorated player in the history of Ecuador. I am proud to be able to bring in a record transfer fee for Brighton which would allow them to reinvest it and help the club continue to be successful.

“The fans have taken me into their hearts and they will always be in my heart so I hope they can understand why I want to take up this magnificent opportunity.”


On this edition of TCOAG, Harry Symeou is joined by Arsenal presenter Nicole Holliday to preview Man City vs Arsenal in the FA Cup, discuss the transfer window, our midfield needs, Leandro Trossard & more! A more informal preview show than usual but it was plenty of fun! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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Everything you need to know about the Hollywood-backed club



Wrexham are gearing up for one of the biggest games in their club history when they face Sheffield United in the FA Cup.

The Welsh side have grown exponentially in recent years following the arrival of Hollywood players Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, with a documentary series also raising the profile of the club.

There has been plenty of on-pitch progress too, with some big signings being made in the past couple of season.


Here’s what you need to know about the club.

Wrexham host Sheffield United in the fourth round of the 2022/23 FA Cup with both sides in brilliant form. Wrexham are top of the National League as they target promotion back to the Football League, while the Blades are second in the Championship.

It’s the first time Wrexham have reached the fourth round since 1997. The two teams last met in 2014 when United edged a five-goal thriller – Phil Jagielka was among the scorers that day.

Phil Parkinson is the current manager at Wrexham, having taken charge of the club back in 2021. He began his managerial career with Colchester United and had roles with Hull and Charlton before a five-year spell with Bradford.


City achieved promotion as League Two play-off winners in 2012/13, also unexpectedly reaching the League Cup final at Wembley that season.

Parkinson then managed over 150 games for Bolton before resigning in August 2019. He was snapped up by Sunderland a few months later but lasted little more than a year before leaving.

He arrived at Wrexham in July 2021 and took the Welsh side to the FA Trophy final where they were defeated by Bromley in May 2022. The were imminently knocked out of the play-offs by Grimsby at the semi-final stage.

Paul Mullin in undoubtedly Wrexham’s main danger in attack. After boshing in the goals for Cambridge United, the striker dropped down the pyramid to sign for the Robins and has delivered goal after goal.


The physical Ollie Palmer is dangerous up front, too, with 13 league goals this season, while Ben Tozer and goalkeeper Mark Howard are important players in their defence.

Ryan Reynolds is a Canadian-American actor renowned for roles in films like Deadpool, Free Guy and Red Notice.

He is thought to have a net worth of around $150m. He has a stake Aviation Gin though unclear how big, having sold the company recently for $610m, and co-founded Maximum Effort Productions and Maximum Effort Marketing.

He’s also involved in Mint Mobile.


Rob McElhenney is an American actor, writer and producer most well known for the comedy show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which he co-created alongside Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton.

What is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is an American sitcom that centres around a group of narcissitic and self-obsessed friends who run an Irish pub in south Philadelphia. McElhenney is known for playing Ronald “Mac” McDonald.

It stars the aforementioned McElhenney, Howerton and Day as well as Kaitlin Olson, who McElhenney married in 2008, and acting legend Danny DeVito.

Rob McElhenney’s fascination with Wrexham began with Mythic Quest writer Humphrey Ker, who revealed he got the actor into the spot during lunch breaks.


“I’m laying claim to the fact (Rob’s) interest in football derives from several years of teasing me for watching football during our lunch breaks at work. Until eventually, just by pure osmosis, I got him interested in the game to the degree that he decides to buy a football team,” Ker said.

Wrexham had been fan owned since 2011 but the supporters’ trust voted McElhenney and Reynolds’ takeover bid through with 98% in favour.

The pair took total control through RR McReynolds Company LLC and made an initial £2m investment under the terms of the deal in early 2021.

Wrexham is a Welsh town close to the Welsh/English border. The club is well renowned for being one of the oldest professional teams in world football. They nearly folded as recently as 2011, though fan action kept the institution afloat.


The place is known for being a mining town and was previously a rock-solid seat in United Kingdom political elections for Labour, but in 2019 a Conservative MP was voted in.

Welcome to Wrexham is available exclusively on Disney+ in the United Kingdom, while viewers in the United States can view the show through streaming platform Hulu.

When is the next series?

Wrexham owners Reynolds and McElhenney confirmed on social media the show would return for a second series. It will likely come after the 2022/23 football season finishes.

The biggest result in Wrexham’s history came in the FA Cup in 1992 when they upset First Division Championship winners Arsenal at the Racecourse.


Alan Smith’s opener was cancelled out by Mickey Thomas’ awesome free kick before Steve Watkin slid in the winner.

They reached the first round of the FA Cup in 2021/22, while the year before they were dumped out in the fourth qualifying round by Solihull Moors.

Wrexham’s ground is the Racecourse Ground. It’s the world’s oldest international football stadium that still hosts international matches and the fifth largest stadium in Wales. It has a current capacity of 10,771, though in 1957, 34,445 spectators watched as Wrexham faced Manchester United.

It was first opened in 1807 and has been Wrexham’s home since 1864.


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