Shootout Heartbreak For The Foxes
Jemma Purfield drew City back level in the first half before Hannah Cain, briefly, gave Leicester the lead in extra-time, however Willie Kirk's side were eventually beaten by the Royals in a penalty shootout, after a 2-2 scoreline in Burton.
There were four changes to the starting line-up that was defeated by Manchester City with Kirstie Levell, Erin Simon, Monique Robinson and Cain being replaced by CJ Bott and Missy Goodwin, while new signings Janina Leitzig and Ruby Mace also started the match.
In a frantic start to the game, it was Reading who opened the scoring only six minutes in, when a dangerous ball into the box led to a scramble, which Sanne Troelsgaard took advantage of, firing past Leitzig from close range.
Over the next 20 minutes, the game looked to settle down with both teams seeing enough of the ball, without forcing many penalty box entries. However, Leicester were looking most likely to score the second goal of the match, with the pace available across the front three.
Just before the half an hour mark, Leicester found that elusive leveller through Purfield. Floating in a free-kick from deep within the Reading half, a teasing cross, which just glided past the head of Ashleigh Plumptre, ended up in the back of the net without requiring a touch.
In the final minutes of the half, it was the Foxes who had their tails up, boosted by the support from the home crowd, and once again looked dangerous with chances on the counter-attack, but a physical Royals' backline managed to keep the scores level at the break.
It was City who came out the stronger side following the interval and could taken the lead in the 50th minute through Ava Baker. Good skill from Goodwin allowed the winger to deliver a low cross into the box which eventually found its way the No.32, but the youngster's powerful effort was turned behind by Grace Moloney.
Just before the hour mark, City were in again. A cross to the back post was met by the head of Goodwin, who directed her downwards header towards goal, but as the Leicester faithful rose out of their seats, celebrations would be cut short when Moloney somehow managed to get down to make the vital stop.
In the last 15 minutes both teams increased the pressure as a winner looked there to be had. Cain and new signing Courtney Nevin were introduced to inject fresh energy into the game, as Willie Kirk looked keen to settle the scoreline in 90 minutes.
However, despite pushing hard deep into injury-time, the scores remained level, and the fourth round fixture would carry on into extra-time.
Heading into an additional 30 minutes, another debut would be made as Georgia Eaton-Collins replaced Mace in central midfield, as Leicester would have to settle in for the night shift in Burton.
But the Foxes weren't keen on trying their luck on penalties, and their ability to stay on front foot was rewarded with a goal only seconds in.
Piling numbers forward, the ball fell to Cain inside the box who fired an effort into the roof of the net, and Leicester into the lead for the first time of the evening.
Unfortunately for Kirk's side, there would be another twist in the tale as Reading equalised minutes before the break. When the ball was left abandoned in the box, it was the Royals' skipper Emma Mukandi who reacted first to fire past Leitzig, once again bringing the scores back level.
After this fourth goal, the momentum shifted again in favour of Reading who started to put immense amounts of pressure onto the backline, however, even though they had conceded twice already, the back four were standing firm against the Royals' advances, despite playing over 115 minutes of football by this stage.
As the night grew darker, there was still nothing between the teams, and the FA Cup fate would be decided by a penalty shootout. Aileen Whelan stepped up to score first, however as Reading scored their first three, Leicester would miss their next two as Moloney saved attempts from both Cain and Plumptre.
Eaton-Collins scored Leicester's fourth, and a Leitzig save gave the hosts some hope, but Moloney was Reading's hero on the night as she stepped up to save a third City penalty, denying Carrie Jones in the decisive moment.
Failing to convert enough of their spot-kicks, it would be Reading who progress to the fifth round, but a valiant display by the Foxes, who must keep their heads held high with a number of crucial battles still to come.
Major moment - Dreaded penalties...
Carrie Jones saw her penalty saved at Pirelli Stadium.
Pushing Reading all the way to penalties shows the character of this new-born Leicester side, but failing to find form from the spot was their downfall on Sunday evening, as Reading would claim the spot in the next round of the FA Cup.
Who impressed? - Plumptre & Howard
Sophie Howard played 120 minutes in the FA Cup defeat.
Reading did find the net on two occasions, but the relationship between Ashleigh Plumptre and Sophie Howard is growing by the minute. Supported by Janina Leitzig behind, and now Ruby Mace in front, the defence is certainly looking at its strongest this season.
Where do we stand - Eliminated from the FA Cup
Grace Moloney saved three penalties to win the shootout for Reading.
The defeat to Reading sees Leicester eliminated from the fourth round of the FA Cup, as focus returns to the Barclays Women's Super League.
Coming up - Manchester City (H)
LCFC Women return to King Power Stadium next weekend for the first time since their victory against Brighton.
Kirk's side face Manchester City in WSL action next Saturday 4 February (11:30am GMT kick-off) at King Power Stadium.
City: Leitzig; Bott, Howard, Plumptre, Purfield (Nevin 82'); Tierney, Mace (Eaton-Collins 91'), Whelan (C); Pike (C. Jones 46'), Baker (Simon 116'), Goodwin (Cain 71').
Subs not used: Lambourne, Levell, Smith, Reavill.
Goals: Purfield 28', Cain 94'.
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