Manchester City Women put one foot in the door of the Champions League and one hand on the Women’s Super League title with a comfortably and convincing win at home to Liverpool Ladies. The pressure was on for Nick Cushing’s side as they need to win their game in hand to keep the pressure on league leaders Chelsea whom they started the night five points behind with just three games to play.
Manchester City were rocked earlier in the week by the news that both leading goal-scorer Toni Duggan and Daphne Corboz would be out injured for the remainder of the season with Tash Harding keeping her place in the line-up whilst Nikita Parris returned from suspension, albeit on the unfamiliar left wing replacing Georgia Stanway
Harding reprised her role from the weekend as the lone striker whilst Krystle Johnston lined up on the right. Behind them Isobel Christiansen, fresh from her first international call up played in her normal role as she was supported by Jill Scott and Keira Walsh. The main other inclusion was the return of Lucy Bronze after sitting out the weekends game.
The influx in changes may have had an effect on City as for the second time in as many games they didn’t start with their normal tempo and fluidity that we’ve been accustomed to as they initially switched between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2 in the game’s opening stages. Fortunately, they faced an injury ravaged Liverpool side who were unarguably more focused on their trip to Bristol Academy in the Continental Cup at the weekend and Champions League trip to Brescia next week resulting in City dominating the almost entirety of the game. Although their first real chance came from a rare Liverpool venture into City’s half as they surrendered possession at the edge of City’s penalty area, City broke away seven on two players but the pass was over-hit and Liverpool were let off. It was a warning sign from City though.
The best chance early on in the game came from a super pass through from Christiansen at the edge of the penalty to release Parris into the penalty area on the left, the pacey striker tried to lift the ball over the Libby Stout in the Liverpool goal but she took too long and Stout saved comfortably. Despite City unable to really test the Liverpool goalkeeper they continued to make the ball do the work and almost took the lead on the half hour when a Christiansen cross found Jenny Beattie in the box and her header struck the crossbar.
The goal eventually came just before half time as Liverpool won a rare corner but the referee blew for a foul as the delivery came in (most likely on Bardsley who had had her arms raised in protest in the build up) and despite being told to move the free kick back 10 yards City broke quickly down the right through Bronze who cut the pass inside superbly from the right which found Christiansen in the middle and she fired brilliantly into the far left hand corner to give City a deserved lead at the break.
The goal seemed to lift City, and the supporters, and they came out for the second half much quicker and sharper then they had started the first half as the much under-heralded Jill Scott pulled the strings in midfield. The first chance came in the first minute of the second half as Stout was forced to tip a wicked curling effort from 20 yards by Parris over the crossbar.
Scott almost laid Christiansen on for her second as she powered her way into the box before laying it off to the City number 11 but her shot was fired straight at the goalkeeper from the edge of the penalty area. Harding came close herself but again she forced Stout into a good save.
City didn’t relent as they made it 2-0 on 75 minutes when substitute Georgia Stanway raced down the left hand side and ping a low hard cross to the near post with Harding getting ahead of her marker and finishing neatly inside the near post for her first Manchester City goal. It was a great moment for the Wales international who immediately ran over to the young winger to show her appreciation.
City were never going to let the lead slip and could have extended it in the final minutes as Nick Cushing audibly instructed his side to retain the ball in the final minutes of a much deserved victory. The fans were also able to enjoy the final minutes as they chanted “Dowie what’s the score” at the player who was responsible for putting Duggan out for the season, Natasha Dowie and “Beatts” every time Jenny Beattie touched the ball. Overall it was an accomplished and professional display from Manchester City.
The tannoy announcer delighted awarded player of the match to the superb Izzy Christiansen rounding off a terrific week in which she’d scored twice and been called up to the England squad.
The permeations are straight forward in that if Chelsea Ladies win their remaining two fixtures at home to Sunderland and away to Liverpool they will be champions however neither side they face will want to hand them an easy three points. Manchester City have two home games against a Bristol Academy side all but relegated and a Notts County side playing for pride. However the Continental Cup returns this weekend as City travel to Arsenal Ladies on Sunday.