Manchester City’s Women’s Super League title bid took a major blow as they were beaten by Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.
Natasha Dowie capitalised on a mistake to bag the opener before Lauren Hemp headed in the equaliser midway through the first half. Missy Bo Kearns controlled and finished straight after the break to set up a crucial second half.
Nine minutes of added time were played as Hemp hit the woodwork and Esme Morgan scuffed just wide, but no leveller came. Manchester United’s win earlier on Sunday means they are six points clear of City at the top, while fellow title rivals Chelsea and Arsenal have three and two games in hand respectively.
Reds goalkeeper Faye Kirby gave City an early chance but managed to recover after gifting Laura Coombs possession, tracking back to tip over a chip from distance.
Kirby had another nervy moment when chased down by Hemp, who went down under the goalie’s clumsy challenge though no penalty was given.
However, it was a moment of poor concentration which gave Liverpool the lead at Prenton Park. Coombs’ errant back pass allowed Dowie a free strike on goal, firing past Ellie Roebuck for a 16th-minute lead.
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Matt Beard’s side did enjoy a spell of pressure after the opener but the score was level only 12 minutes later.
Chloe Kelly’s precise cross found Hemp, whose floated header sailed beyond Kirby for her seventh WSL goal of the season.
Kelly and Hemp were dangerous throughout, swapping wings at points and delivering dangerous crosses into the box for the subdued Khadija Shaw to attack.
Bunny Shaw’s first sight of goal came at the end of the first half. The Jamaican forward, who leads the WSL goalscoring charts with 18 so far this season, was played in behind the Liverpool defence but screwed her low effort wide of the post.
City’s WSL title hopes took a massive blow right at the start of the second half as Liverpool again took a surprising lead.
Play was spread out wide as Emma Koivisto laid the ball back to Kearns, whose snapshot picked out the bottom corner. It was nearly three when Shanice van de Sanden raced towards Roebuck’s goal soon after, though the England international saved smartly with her left hand.
Coombs slammed a shot narrowly wide as City hunted for an equaliser before Roebuck again denied Van de Sanden, this time sprawling at the Dutch forward’s feet brilliantly to clear the danger.
City were inches away from grabbing a late point late on. Goalscorer Hemp took a touch and sent a fierce strike towards goal, the ball bouncing off the crossbar, onto the line and away to safety. Away players appealed for the goal to be given but with no goal-line technology in place, no decision came.
The large amount of stoppage time had Liverpool’s defence holding out heroically towards the end of the fixture. The win sures up their position of seventh in the WSL, while City’s title chances have shrunk and they will slip behind Chelsea should the Blues avoid defeat to Everton later on Sunday.
Liverpool player ratings (5-3-2)
GK: Faye Kirby (7); RWB: Emma Koivisto (8), CB: Gemma Bonner (7), CB: Rhiannon Roberts (7), CB: Jasmine Matthews (7), LWB: Taylor Hinds (7); CM: Missy Bo Kearns (7), CM: Fuka Nagano (6), CM: Ceri Holland (7); ST: Katie Stengel (7), ST: Natasha Dowie (7).
Substitutes: Shanice van de Sanden (6), Miriael Taylor (6), Sofie Lundgaard (N/A)
Manchester City player ratings (4-2-3-1)
GK: Ellie Roebuck (7); RB: Kerstin Casparij (6), CB: Steph Houghton (6), CB: Alex Greenwood (6), LB: Esme Morgan (7); CM: Yui Hasegawa (7), CM: Filippa Angeldal (6); RW: Chloe Kelly (8), AM: Laura Coombs (6); LW: Lauren Hemp (8); ST: Khadija Shaw (6).
Substitutes: Hayley Raso (6), Deyna Castellanos (6), Leila Ouahabi (N/A)