LIVERPOOL Ladies produced a defensively sound display, holding top-of-the-league Manchester City Women to a goalless draw in Widnes.
After three straight defeats, Liverpool returned to winning ways in style last week, defeating Sunderland Ladies 4-0 after from home.
Manchester City however posed a different different challenge — unbeaten in six previous league games, with six straight wins, and yet to concede a goal.
There were no changes to the backline that kept the clean sheet in the North East with Siobhan Chamberlain behind a back four of Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle and Alex Greenwood.
Kate Longhurst partnered Laura Coombs in the middle, with Shanice Van De Sanden returning to the starting 11 in place of Emma Lundh, lining up alongside Tash Harding, Rosie White and Caroline Weir in attack.
A cagey start to the match ensued, Weir’s strike after closing in on goal the first real chance for either side. Longhurst excelled throughout the 90 minutes with her drive and determination and it was her who found Weir who, with both centre halves chasing, had her shot saved by England keeper Karen Bardsley.
Both sides grew into the game, with City’s winter signing Kosovare Asllani nipping past a couple of red shirts and poised to take a shot only for a strong challenge by Bonner to stop the Swedish international in her tracks.
Van De Sanden was getting herself among the opposition defence, showcasing her frightening pace as she switched wings with the equally hard-working Harding. It was the Welsh winger who tapped a short ball to Weir, who turned and attempted to pick out the run of Van De Sanden only for the City defence to read the move well and clear.
Earlier in the season the Reds had shown great fight in their 1-0 win over Birmingham City and the same backs-against-the-wall defending was once more on show here in both halves.
A first half Steph Houghton free kick ricocheted its way in and around the box and each of Coombs, Ingle and Bonner blocked attempts from blue shirts before a foul was given on Bonner.
Murray also continued her impressive return to the side from injury, effectively marking England forward Toni Duggan throughout.
The full back also, quite casually, took the ball from Asllani shortly into the second half. A dangerous ball landing at the feet of the Swede inside the box and Murray taking the ball, then fouled by Asllani in frustration.
It was Liverpool who started the second half better, working down either wing with first White and Van De Sanden combining and looking for Harding and Weir.
Then Greenwood won possession high up the pitch to square the ball wide for Harding, the winger, making her second appearance against her former club, was blocked by ex-Red Lucy Bronze.
It didn’t take long for City to find their groove though; Ingle calm under pressure inside the area to turn and carry the ball away, clearing as far as Jane Ross who could only fire wide.
Chamberlain then twice denied Bronze, a clever move seeing Duggan tee the full back up, her low drive finding its way past the defence and Chamberlain quick to stop it crossing the line. Then an effort reminiscent of Bronze’s winning goal for England against Norway in the World Cup looked destined for the top corner only for an impressive save from the Reds No.1 to keep it out.
With 60 minutes played, Liverpool’s defence continued to thrive against the relentless City attack.
Jill Scott looking for Duggan but Greenwood there, Ingle heading away a ball sent over the top, Bronze chasing back in and Harding getting between her and the ball to shield out for a goal kick.
City kept coming back, however, Coombs getting in the middle of a passing move that had seen Dugan cut the ball back to Scott who tried to send it forward once more to Christianson.
Liverpool weren’t without chances of their own and found themselves dominating in short periods — a Bonner free kick resulting in a corner which fell to Coombs outside the area who squared back wide to Greenwood, her left-footed strike collected by Bardsley.
Then a counter from the Reds had Van De Sanden, Harding and Weir all closing in on the City goal yet Bardsley got herself on the end of the final ball.
The best Liverpool chance came with 12 minutes left on the clock, another Greenwood set piece dropping in the centre of the box but White’s header somehow flew inches over the crossbar.
Six minutes of injury time had been added at the end of the second half and still City continued to pepper the Reds defence, Bonner and Coombs combining to clear from one forward raid and Ingle with a sublime block, reading the game well to come out from the back and stopping substitute Georgia Stanway from sending a cross towards goal.
The final kick of the game came as Bronze fired over the crossbar, Liverpool providing a masterclass in defence to deny City a seventh straight win and heading into the mid-season break with eight points on the table.
Liverpool Ladies: Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner, Ingle, Greenwood, Coombs, Longhurst, White, Van De Sanden (Hodson), Weir (Lundh), Harding (Charles)
Player of the Match: Gemma Bonner.