A ruthless second half display from Manchester City Women destroyed Brighton Women on a bright yet cold afternoon in Crawley. After a goalless first half of few chances, the game burst into life in the second half, as the blues scored four goals in seven minutes.
An own goal was added to by strikes from Lauren Hemp, Georgia Stanway and Laura Coombs, while Hayley Raso and Vicky Losada added to the blues tally.
City welcomed back long-term absentees as Lucy Bronze made her first appearance of the season, while club captain Steph Houghton was named on the bench as the blues begin to recover from the lengthy injury list that has plagued their season.
The blues went into the match looking to secure their third straight WSL victory after beating Midland’s pair Birmingham City and Aston Villa as they tried to put their previous season’s woes behind them.
And City started on the front foot, forcing two corners in the opening minutes of the match, with Hemp heading over from the second. Ellen White had a penalty appeal turned down as the blues looked for the perfect start, but Brighton looked set up to frustrate the visitors and hit them on the counter-attack.
Australian winger Raso was a constant thorn in the Brighton defence and the game’s first dangerous moment came from her tenacity. Winning the ball on the edge of the penalty area, Raso played in Stanway down the right, but her low, powerful cross was cleared.
Hearts were in City mouths in the 13th minute when Brighton thought they had a penalty. Benameur Taieb’s challenge seemed to catch the Brighton attack, but, thankfully for the third-choice keeper, the flag for offside had already been raised.
City continued to try and unlock the home defence without much success. Laura Coombs’ 18th minute shot was weak and drifted wide of the post, while Stanway’s shot went over the bar after the blues hit Brighton on the break.
Brighton’s best chance came in the 36th minute when Inessa Kaagman fired wide when in a good position. It would prove to be the last chance of the half and Brighton’s best opportunity throughout the whole match as City turned up the heat in the second half.
Half-time: Brighton and Hove Albion Women 0-0 Manchester City Women
The second half started with the blues once again on the front foot and a glut of goals from the blues put the match out of Brighton’s reach. Hemp’s cross in the 48th minute was turned into her own goal by Williams, with Ellen White lurking just beyond, before Hemp made it 2-0 two minutes later.
Played in down the left, Hemp floated the ball over the keeper to score City’s second and was the ultimate celebration to signing a new two-year contract earlier in the week.
If Brighton were organised in the first half, the completely fell apart in the second. Raso played in Lucy Bronze down the right and her cross into the box saw the home defence struggle to clear. The ball fell to Stanway and, although her first shot was blocked, the ball fell back to her and the striker rolled the ball into the far corner to make it 3-0.
City went looking for more blood and Hemp’s shot was saved by the keeper, with the rebound falling to Raso, who couldn’t divert it goalward. But the blues wouldn’t be denied a fourth and when it came, it was more of a late Christmas gift from the Brighton defence.
A poor pass out saw the ball at the feet of Coombs, and the midfielder had the simple job of passing the ball into an unguarded goal to make it 4-0. City poured forward at every opportunity, as they threatened to repeat last season’s score line. Stanway was clear in the box but fired over, before substitute Vicky Losada, who had only been on the pitch for a minute, also fired over.
On 64 minutes, Stanway took on the Brighton defence and played in White, but the England striker took a touch which sent her a little wide and the chance went begging.
The moment City fans had been waiting for finally arrived on 70 minutes as captain Steph Houghton came off the bench. The defender had not played since being injured while on international duty in September, and she was a welcome site at the heart of the blues defence.
City sensed more goals and a fifth duly arrived in the 73rd minute. White flicked on a forward ball into the path of Raso, and the Australian was allowed to run into the area before finishing with aplomb.
Two minutes later, Losada got in on the act as she scored City’s sixth of the afternoon. The former Barcelona star had showed some flashes of brilliance since coming on and when she spotted the keeper off her line, Losada went for goal. Her attempted chip clipped the head of a defender, before looping over the keeper and into the goal.
City had further chances to increase the lead further. Substitute Janine Beckie had two bites at the cherry when released inside the box. Her first shot was blocked and the second cleared off the line, while White saw an effort cleared off the line by Maya Le Tissier.
It was a comfortable victory in the end, and one which relieves the pressure on manager Gareth Taylor, who now sees his side leapfrog Brighton into fifth place. City next travel to Leicester in the final round of the League Cup, knowing victory will guarantee their place in the next round, before facing Aston Villa in the WSL on Saturday lunchtime.
Final Score: Brighton and Hove Albion Women 0-6 Manchester City Women