Bristol City move out of relegation zone as Ebony Salmon scores late winner over Reading

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Bristol City 3 Reading 2 Bristol City moved off the bottom of the Women’s Super League as they fought from behind to beat Reading in a gripping five-goal thriller and move out of the relegation zone for the first time since September. Ebony Salmon’s brilliantly taken goal won a frenetic contest late on as she met Scotland forward Abi Harrison’s excellent diagonal ball on the run with a superb first touch and half-volleyed into the bottom corner. Rachel Rowe’s emphatic finish into the roof of the net had seen Reading draw level at 2-2, after Jemma Purfield’s curling strike had put the hosts 2-1 up just before the hour mark. It was only Bristol City’s second league win of the season, with another late twist seeing Rowe sent off in stoppage time for a second booking. Starting the night two points adrift of West Ham United at the bottom, Bristol City made an energetic start as they made a rare appearance at Ashton Gate, the home of their men’s side. However, they fell behind against the run of play when a collision in the Bristol City defence allowed the ball to bounce freely to 18-year-old striker Emma Harries to poke home inside the area and net her first senior goal. Moments later, keeper Sophie Baggaley dived low to her right to keep out Danielle Carter’s strike and keep the hosts in it. They rallied and deservedly levelled midway through the first half when Charlie Wellings slotted home with a low, first-time finish, as her diagonal run met England striker Ebony Salmon’s delicately-weighted through ball. Sixth-placed Reading had drawn seven of their previous 15 league games this term, including six that ended in a 1-1 scoreline, but they nearly fell behind when the lively Salmon twice went close, a fortnight after making her senior international debut. Matt Beard’s home side, who will contest Sunday’s Women’s Continental League Cup final against holders Chelsea at Watford's Vicarage Road, appeared full of desire and optimism as they continued their recent upturn in performances. They had wanted an early penalty when Belgium winger Yana Daniels tumbled over in the box, but referee Rebecca Welch felt there had not been any contact, and replays appeared to show Daniels had dived. Chances at either end continued throughout the game, which turned into one of the best of the entire WSL season so far, but it was the skill of Salmon that ultimately settled it, giving the relegation battle a major twist. The West Country club have played a game more than West Ham and still have a huge amount of work to do defy the odds and stay clear of danger this term, but the psychological boost of climbing off the foot of the table could be vast.

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