LIVERPOOL Ladies crashed to their third straight defeat as goals from Izzy Christianson and Natasha Harding kept Manchester City’s title dreams alive with just two games remaining of the Women’s Super League season.
There were 3 changes to the side beaten by Arsenal Ladies at the weekend, Ingrid Ryland coming into an otherwise unchanged back line with Martha Harris at right-back, Gemma Bonner and Satara Murray in the centre and Libby Stout in goal.
Katie Zelem dropped to the bench in favour of Lucy Staniforth, who would partner Katrin Omarsdottir in midfield while Line Smorsgard came in for Ashley Hodson on the left of the attack. Kate Longhurst was on the right with Rosie White playing behind Natasha Dowie.
City came into the game high on confidence after a run of 10 wins in 11 games, yet for the majority of the opening 45 minutes Liverpool’s defence stood strong. Bonner stopping Bronze in the opening minute and Staniforth with a clever interception at the edge of the area.
Harris had had a great game in the previous league match against Arsenal and continued to impress here, tasked with marking the tricky Nikita Parris and also snuffing out the threat of City left-back Demi Stokes, who had played well during her side’s 1-0 win over Sunderland on Sunday.
When in possession, Liverpool looked to attack down the right, with Harris pushing forward early on and linking with Longhurst.
City were playing high up the pitch, Jill Scott in particular looking to be playing further forward than usual, camping out by the back post for the majority of the first half.
City continued to enjoy most of the game’s chances with Stout off her line to prevent Harding connecting with a Scott through ball and Bonner putting in a superbly-timed sliding challenge in the box to stop another City raid.
But despite resolute defending from Liverpool, City took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Christianson fired past Stout after a trademark move from former Liverpool defender Lucy Bronze, who had powered forward from right-back before cutting the ball back.
Liverpool were furious as just moments earlier a foul had been given against the Reds in the box after a good delivery from a White corner.
The Reds came under fire again in the second half, Stout strongly punching away a Christianson corner before brilliantly saving at close range from Harding — the rebound from Christianson blocked by Bonner, who also stopped another Bronze cross meeting its target.
Harding was leading the City front line in the absence of Toni Duggan, who Man City announced will miss the remainder of this season with an ankle injury.
Harding herself had only recently returned from injury but she continued to test the Reds defence — Murray getting across and in front of the Welsh international to prevent her getting a shot away before a low cross was intercepted by Harris and cleared by Murray.
Shortly after a quick City counter-attack in which Staniforth was booked for a challenge on Christianson, Harding doubled her side’s lead with 15 minutes to play, converting a Georgia Stanway cross at the near post.
Liverpool made a final substitution late in the game with Maz Pacheco replacing Staniforth, following the earlier substitutions of Ashley Hodson and Katie Zelem on for Smorsgard and Longhurst.
This signalled a change in formation, Harris moving into a back three alongside Bonner and Murray with Pacheco and Ryland at wing back.
The change gave Liverpool more width in their attacking play and in the final move of the game Pacheco won the ball from Bronze on the halfway line and Liverpool pressed forward, switching the ball across to Ryland who had cut in but the Norwegian was unable to turn at the edge of the box and was eventually forced back.
Liverpool remain sixth in the table, with a home game against Chelsea Ladies on September 26 and a final day tie against Bristol Academy a week later.
LIVERPOOL LADIES: Stout, Harris, Murray, Bonner, Ryland, Omarsdottir, Staniforth (Pacheco), Smorsgard (Hodson), Longhurst (Zelem), White, Dowie
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Martha Harris
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo