Reading were defeated 5-0 by reigning Women’s Super League champions, Chelsea on Sunday as they started 2021 at the Madejski Stadium.

The tie was the only surviving game of the WSL weekend due to a series of injury and Covid related postponements across the league after a series of sides let players travel overseas during a Christmas break.

Kelly Chambers’ side had behaved throughout the break though and was looking to continue their good form from the pre-Christmas run.

It wasn’t to be the Royals day though as former academy graduate and Reading born striker Fran Kirby stole the show.

The England international striker caused carnage for the Royals makeshift defence scoring four times including a perfect first half hattrick before Ji So-Yun completed the scoreboard.

Kirby opened the scoring on 16 minutes when she pounced on a loose ball before rounding Grace Moloney to slot home. She then hit the post from range before the Reading defence was their own downfall once more.

Sam Kerr caught the defence napping before playing in Kirby for her second as the Australian star caused carnage. She could have had her name on the scoresheet but unselfishly tried to find Kirby for her trio.

On the brink of half time, a frustration fuelled foul from the experienced Fara Williams put the Royals in trouble with a well-worked routine ended with Kirby heading home.

Reading lacked attacking ideas and seemed lacklustre in midfield in an unusual showing from Chambers side. Jess Fishlock denied a certain goal for Guro Reiten on the 50th minute with a last-ditch tackle before a lack of concentration from a corner proved costly.

With attention drawn on taller players, the minute Kirby glided in to head home her fourth on 53 minutes, past a helpless Moloney.

The hosts lost Lily Woodham late on to injury before Moloney denied Pernille Harder from extending the advantage.

Second-half substitute Ji looked dangerous sending a free-kick wide of the mark before the South Korean netted Chelsea’s fifth. The Royals failed to deal with a cross before Ji was given time to control and poke home.

Molly Bartrip was called on late into the dying moments to deny Beth England but with no shots on target and a 68 per cent pass accuracy, Chambers side has work to do as they prepare to face another tough visit from Arsenal next Sunday.

Reading: Moloney, Cooper, Mitchell (Carter 80), Leine, Woodham (Bartrip 73), James, Fishlock, Williams (Rowe 59), Harries (Bruton 46), Eikeland, Harding ©.

Bench (Unused): Nayler, Skeels, Roberts.