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Bristol Academy 1 (Del Rio 71) Liverpool 0
Bristol Academy moved themselves into second place in the FA WSL table after a second half strike from Laura Del Rio Garcia settled matters at Stoke Gifford.
However this did not tell the whole story as the home side were denied a bigger margin of victory by a superb display from Liverpool goalkeeper Nicola Davies who made a string of outstanding saves which also included a first half Jessica Fishlock penalty.
Liverpool, playing their first match under new manager Matt Beard, started the game brightly but soon found themselves under pressure as Academy began to hit their stride. Fishlock hit a shot over the bar from outside the area and then Del Rio broke through and set up Nikki Watts who was denied by a last ditch block from Sam Chappell.
Watts went close again moments later as the ball broke kindly for her in the area but her left foot shot was saved by Davies and Natasha Harding was off target with a long range effort.
Academy continued to press hard and Fishlock saw a well struck 25-yard shot brilliantly tipped over the bar by Davies. From the resulting corner, Nicky Harding was penalised for a handball in the area and a penalty was awarded. Fishlock stepped up but Davies did well to get down low to her right and turn her shot around the post.
Davies was looking unbeatable at this stage and she again got the better in what was becoming a personal duel with Fishlock, this time parrying her shot into the path of Watts before getting up to make another tremendous save from the rebound.
A Del Rio corner was headed on by Corinne Yorston for Jemma Rose whose shot hit the side netting and a minute later, after Davies came out of goal to head clear from the onrushing Del Rio, Melissa Lawley neatly lobbed the ball back over her head and towards goal but Reds captain Vicky Jones had got back to clear off the line.
Harding was next to go close as she was released down the left by Fishlock and she curled a right foot shot but Davies was again on hand, tipping the ball past the post at full stretch to keep her side on level terms at the interval.
The pattern of the game continued at the start of the second half with Watts heading a Harding cross wide but Liverpool did produce their first telling effort on goal, a long range effort from Katie Brusell which was held by Siobhan Chamberlain.
Academy then passed up their best opportunity of the game so far, Alex Windell feeding Del Rio in the area but after rounding Davies, her shot hit the underside of the bar and Harding blazed the rebound over.
Watts was next to shoot over following good work by Del Rio but just as it seemed that Liverpool were about to ride out the storm, the deficit was finally broken. Watts won the ball from Alex Culvin on the edge of the area and although her initial shot was saved, Del Rio pounced on the rebound and coolly slotted home from ten yards to the immense relief of the home side.
Liverpool responded with Hannah Keryakoplis finding Kelly Jones whose shot was saved by Chamberlain but at the other end, Del Rio almost grabbed a second after breaking down the right and cutting in past two challenges but her shot was deflected just wide of the far post.
Ellie Curson had a chance to double her side's lead just moments after coming on as a substitute as she raced onto Fishlock's chipped pass but Davies once again stood firm and foiled her with a point blank save. Fishlock then set up Harding with a low cross and her shot was tipped onto the bar by the brilliant Davies.
There was a scare for Academy in the dying minutes when Chamberlain misjudged a Michelle Evans free kick but the ball bounced over the bar. Liverpool valiantly tried to salvage a point in injury time but could not find a way through and the home side could finally celebrate their second home win of the season.
Bristol Academy: Siobhan Chamberlain, Alex Windell, Loren Dykes, Angharad James, Corinne Yorston, Jemma Rose, Laura Del Rio Garcia, Natasha Harding, Nikki Watts (sub Ann Marie Heatherson 89mins), Jessica Fishlock, Melissa Lawley (sub Ellie Curson 83mins). Subs not used: Michelle Green, Molly Clark, Rachel Simkin, Rhian Cleverly, Ellie Leek.
Liverpool: Nicola Davies, Sam Chappell, Vicky Jones, Michelle Evans, Nicky Harding, Chloe Jones (sub Alex Culvin 52mins), Katie Brusell, Cheryl Foster (sub Lillie Bilson 68mins), Lizzie Ince, Kelly Jones, Emily Gielnik (sub Hannah Keryakoplis 61mins). Subs not used: Caroline Charlton, Helen Griffiths, Sophia Ricco.
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