Nick Cushing’s side kept their place at the top of the WSL table following their 3-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion, Nikita Parris scoring a brace to add to her goal tally for the season while Gemma Bonner also got on the scoresheet; scoring her third goal of the 2018/19 campaign.
The Blues went ahead within the first few minutes, Parris playing a beautiful through ball for Lauren Hemp, the forward making a run into the box where she was brought down by Ellie Hack; referee Amy Fearn awarding City a penalty.
Parris stepped up to take the spot kick against former Blue Marie Hourihan, the forward sending the ball into the bottom left of the net to put the home side 1-0 up.
Houghton’s long ball was met by Hemp but she lost out to Welsh international Kayleigh Green, who played it wide to Felicity Gibbons. The defender and midfielder Chloe Peplow played a one touch sequence, Gibbons running down the wing and crossing in to no-one; Karen Bardsley collecting.
Green collected the ball from Ellie Brazil under pressure from Caroline Weir, the Scotland midfielder winning possession and running down the wing before playing it back to Bonner. City played it around at the back before Keira Walsh played it long down the pitch, Victoria Williams meeting the cross with her head but Jill Scott there to capitalize on the loose ball; sending an effort from range just over the bar.
Around the ten minute mark, Scott played a ball wide for Claire Emslie to collect, the forward sending in a first time cross but no one was there collect.
Demi Stokes beat her marker and picked it up near the touchline, Weir making a run into the box to receive the ball, City playing it around before Gemma collected under pressure from Aileen Whelan. The defender played it back to the Blues captain, Steph sending a low pass into Hemp who played through Caroline, Parris receiving it and clashing heads with captain Dani Buet as Lauren sent a shot straight at Hourihan.
A spell of Brighton possession saw the visitors build from the back, Buet sending a long ball over everyone that Jen Beattie missed, Brazil picking it up and making a good run down the wing as Houghton came across to cover; Bardsley collecting.
Twenty minutes in, City were awarded two corners in quick succession with Emslie stepping up to take both set pieces. Her first cross was met by Nikita and Fern Whelan, the ball falling back to Weir on the edge of the box, her cross meeting the head of Hack and going behind.
Claire’s second cross met Brazil’s head and Brighton cleared as the home side scrambled to get the ball back into the area.
A neat little backheel from Parris saw the ball fall to Caroline, the Scot playing through Hemp, who also spotted the run of Nikita and played it to her but Marie Hourihan got there first covering the ball. Kayleigh Green collected but lost possession to Nikita, the twenty four year old finding Emslie out wide, her shot firing straight at the keeper.
The Blues went 2-0 up on the half an hour mark thanks to Gemma Bonner, Weir’s short corner to Claire and the forward’s cross causing a scramble in the box that saw Bonner get the last touch to send the ball into the back of the net. Unfortunately, the scramble also saw Marie Hourihan get caught up with Fern Whelan, the keeper receiving treatment before being taken off the pitch on crutches, later returning to the dugout in a boot.
Substitute Sophie Harris was tested less than a minute after she came on, Emslie finding Jill under pressure from Gibbons, the midfielder playing a one touch sequence before Gemma sent a ball in to Lauren from the wing; Buet there to cover and Harris to collect.
The home side scored their third goal from a corner with five minutes of normal time to go, Claire sending a cross into the area for Scott, her header flicked on by Nikita and into the net.
In the third minute of the additional six Emslie, who’d made the overlapping run on Bonner, played a one touch sequence with Hemp before her cross was collected by Green and then the goalkeeper. A free kick at the end of extra time then saw Chloe Peplow step up, the young midfielder’s cross met by Houghton before the loose ball was collected by Buet. The Brighton captain found Victoria Williams, the former Sunderland players cross met by Fern Whelan but her effort was collected by Bardsley in the final action of the half.
City could have scored again following half time as Claire played through Hemp, the youngster making a terrific run only for her shot to go over the bar. Shortly after, the home side were awarded two corners one after the other, with Emslie’s first cross finding the top of the net while her second was headed on by Jill, Lauren there to collect but substitute Ini Umotong cleared.
Minutes later Umotong gave away a free kick after she fouled Demi, Caroline stepping up to send the ball into the area, Gemma’s header falling in front of Lauren but the forward put it behind for a goal kick.
Pressure on Hemp from Ellie Hack saw the young Brighton defender win possession, playing it across the back to Williams who then came under pressure from Hemp. The visitors kept their nerve with Peplow collecting and sending a shot from range over Bardsley’s goal.
The Seagulls stepped up their game on the hour with Kayleigh Green winning the ball off Keira Walsh and playing through Umotong, who much to the disgruntlement of the City fans was not called offside. Karen Bardsley came out of her goal to make the save and put the ball behind for a Brighton corner, Chloe Peplow sending a cross towards the area which went past everyone and narrowly missed the mouth of the goal; rolling behind for a goal kick.
City had another chance to score when Nikita was brought down on the edge of the box in Steph Houghton territory and it was indeed the captain who stepped up to take the free kick; her effort going just wide of the goal.
A long ball forward from Houghton fell at the feet of Parris, the forward laying it off to Walsh played through substitute Georgia Stanway, the youngster sending a shot from range goal-wards and forcing a save from Harris; the ball bouncing out for a corner. Claire’s cross was met by the heads of Bonner and Green, the Brighton keeper saving comfortably to thwart the Blues chances of scoring from the rebound.
With just under ten minutes to go Gemma laid the ball off down the line to substitute Mel Lawley, who’d made the overlapping run, Fern Whelan putting the forward under pressure but knocking it out for a City throw in.
Substitute Pauline Bremer won the ball from Ini Umotong and laid it off to Lawley, the twenty four year old turning to sprint away but the referee pulled play back as she deemed Lawley to have fouled Kate Natkiel who had challenged her for the ball.
The visitors put a fight in the four minutes of extra time, Victoria Williams dispossessing Stanway before making a run and laying it off to Natkiel; the Brighton number 10 playing a one touch sequence with Green. Felicity Gibbons made the run to collect the ball before playing through Ellie Brazil, the youngster’s shot deflecting off Demi for a corner, Dani Buet sending a cross in towards Whelan; Houghton clearing.
City had one final chance to score in the last minute or so, Nikita playing a lovely weighted through ball for Bremer, the German collecting and sending a shot agonisingly wide of the goal in the last major action of the game.
This win sees City stay top of the league with 34 points, Arsenal second on 33 and Chelsea in third with 28 points. The Blues now break from the WSL to take on Watford FC Ladies in their first game of the SSE Women’s FA Cup 2019, at the Academy Stadium on Saturday 2nd February with kick off at 3pm; tickets are available.
Man City Women
Karen Bardsley, Demi Stokes, Gemma Bonner, Jen Beattie, Steph Houghton ©, Jill Scott, Lauren Hemp (Pauline Bremer 77’), Nikita Parris, Caroline Weir (Georgia Stanway 62’), Claire Emslie (Mel Lawley 77’) and Keira Walsh
Subs (not used): Fran Stenson, Esme Morgan and Jess Park
Goals: Parris 3’ (PEN), 40’ and Bonner 31’
Brighton and Hove Albion Women
Marie Hourihan (Sophie Harris 35’), Felicity Gibbons, Dani Buet ©, Fern Whelan, Aileen Whelan (Ini Umotong 46’), Kate Natkiel, Chloe Peplow (Emily Simpkins 73’), Kayleigh Green, Ellie Brazil, Victoria Williams and Ellie Hack
Subs (not used): Kirsty Barton, Jodie Brett and Megan Connolly
MCWFC OSC POTM: Lauren Hemp
Referee: Amy Fearn