Aston Villa Women came from behind twice to earn a well-deserved draw against Reading in the Women’s Super League on Saturday afternoon.
In her first start for the club, Mana Iwabuchi levelled the score line early in the second half, but the visitors responded quickly to regain their lead just minutes after.
The Villans refused to sit back, though, and a 90th minute equaliser from Diana Silva ensured the hosts walked away with at least a point.
It was the nightmare start for Gemma Davies’ side as Reading took the lead within three minutes.
The visitors were able to capitalise on early pressure and Jess Fishlock got a shot away from 25 yards out that was palmed away by Lisa Weiss, but straight into the path of Angharad James who sent it beyond the keeper.
The Royals were then pushing for a second and Weiss was called into action once again on eight minutes.
A Reading corner was worked out to Emma Mitchell, who’s effort was tipped over the bar by the keeper.
Things almost went from bad to worse for the hosts following a poor clearance from Weiss, which nearly gifted Reading a second.
The German international recovered well, but her clash with Lauren Bruton to reclaim the ball lead to cries from the Reading bench for a penalty, but nothing was given.
Villa grew into the game, though, and Stine Larsen had an effort deflected out for a corner, their first of the game, on 37 minutes.
Soon after, some fantastic play from Emma Follis saw her work the ball down the right flank and cut it back into the box, Larsen and Iwabuchi arrived, but were unable to turn it into the back of the net as Deanna Cooper defended well for the visitors and sent it out for another Villa corner.
Reading took a lead into the break, but Davies’ side responded well to the early setback and found an equaliser early in the second half.
A free kick from the hosts was calmly turned into the back of the net and beyond Grace Moloney by Iwabuchi, who became only the second Japanese international to score in the WSL.
Things weren’t level for long, though, as Reading almost immediately hit back through Rachel Rowe – but Villa refused to let that dent their spirit.
The Villans kept pushing and reaped the rewards of their efforts as the clock ticked over into stoppage time, inflicting late heartbreak on a Reading side that had dominated for large spells of the game.
Iwabuchi burst forward into the box and cut the ball back towards Silva who was able to touch it in, despite being quickly closed down by the Reading defence.
In a game that had seemingly slipped away from Villa within three minutes, a resilient performance saw them fight back and move another point clear of Bristol City at the bottom of the table.
It was new signing Iwabuchi that shone on a snowy afternoon in Walsall and her importance was felt by manager Davies.
“She’s got an abundance of experience and she brings that to life on the pitch, players work off her,” she said. “She’s very clever in the spaces she likes to play in and the group are slowly working out how she likes to play and the areas she likes to pick the ball up in.
“We often do really well in our build-up phase and penetration phase, but Mana gives us that last little pass. She linked really well today and combined in really important spaces.
“She’s going to fill a void that we’ve been lacking.”
In a difficult week for the club, that saw them fall to a heavy 7-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City last Sunday, it was vital the squad picked themselves back up heading into a key run of fixtures.
“It’s been a difficult couple of weeks and coming off the back of Sunday, I think we’ve had our most challenging week,” said the Villa boss.
“The one thing we asked of the players today was to be themselves and show up, to graft and give as much as they can.
“That’s what we’re about and I think we saw that across the 90 minutes.
“Perhaps in spells across this season we’ve been a little bit inconsistent with that, but we’re a really young team, both players and staff.
“We’re new to the league and it’s going to take time, but you saw more of what we’re about today.”
Villa are next in action on Wednesday January 27 as they welcome league champions Chelsea to the Banks’s stadium.