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Bristol Academy 3 (Quantrill og 19, Del Rio 66, Natalia 67)
Liverpool 4 (Fors pen 26, Rolser 45, Omarsdottir 58, Bonner 86)
Liverpool captain Gemma Bonner scored a stunning late goal to send her side back to the top of the FA WSL at the expense of Bristol Academy, after the teams battled out a dramatic seven-goal encounter.
The home side looked to have done enough to earn themselves a point after fighting back from two behind but the Reds - and Bonner in particular - were to have the final say.
There was little sign of what was come during the early stages as both teams tried to wrest control of the game. There was an early scare for Academy though when a Siobhan Chamberlain clearance went straight to Amanda Da Costa who tried her luck from 30 yards with a lob which was narrowly too high.
This was to be a rare attempt on goal until Academy opened the scoring on 19 minutes, although there was a tinge of controversy about the goal. Lucy Bronze was penalised for handball near the touchline, despite appearing to have been fouled herself, and Alex Windell floated a free kick to the far post where Ann Marie Heatherson's header was saved by Sarah Quantrill. Heatherson picked up the rebound and drove back into the centre where Quantrill diverted the ball into the net via an outstretched boot.
Liverpool passed up a great chance to equalise when, after a corner had been cleared, Fara Williams returned the ball into the area for an unmarked Katrin Omarsdottir who miscued her volley with only Chamberlain to beat.
However just three minutes later, they were back on level terms after they looked to be the beneficiaries of another poor refereeing decision. Nicole Rolser drifted into space and was picked out by Williams' pass, making her way into the area and although contact from Grace McCatty appeared to be minimal, Rolser tumbled over and a penalty was awarded. Louise Fors stepped up to take the kick and put the memories of her shootout miss against Lincoln firmly behind her by burying a firm shot past Chamberlain.
Things remained tight leading up to half time with both teams defending well and a number of physical challenges flying in from each side. Bonner needed treatment for a head injury following an accidental collision with Jaz Matthews and it was in this injury time that her side took the lead for the first time.
Corina Schroder's corner from the right caused problems for the Academy defence, Jemma Rose got her head to the ball but could not control her clearance and it went in via the head of Rolser.
Buoyed by their late first half strike, Liverpool passed the ball around confidently at the start of the second half as they looked to increase their advantage. In an attempt to freshen things up, Academy made a double substitution, bringing on debutant Keka and Laura Del Rio but there was nothing they could do to prevent the Reds going further ahead three minutes later.
Following good build up play involving Natasha Dowie and Fors, the ball was played back to Omarsdottir around 30 yards from goal and the Icelandic midfielder crashed an unstoppable shot which sailed past Chamberlain and in off the underside of the bar.
Liverpool looked to be in control at this point but Academy's renowned fighting spirit soon dragged them back into the game. The warning signs were there when Natasha Harding slipped a neat pass into the path of Del Rio who guided her shot past Quantrill but Bonner was on hand to clear away from in front of goal.
Two minutes later, a goal kick by Quantrill went straight to Natalia who fed Del Rio with a pass into the area and this time she coolly tucked her shot past the keeper and into the corner of the net.
Before Liverpool could recover, Harding was sent away down the right and her near post cross was met by the predatory Natalia who gave Quantrill no chance with a clinical finish.
Suddenly the momentum was with Academy and they sensed the chance to grab themselves a winner. Natalia tried her luck from long range with a strike which flew over the bar and Harding also went close with a well struck effort from the edge of the area.
Liverpool needed to ride out the storm with Bonner outstanding in the centre, well supported by Bronze and Whitney Engen. They saw out the period of pressure before coming up with a killer blow themselves.
Bronze's initial effort drew a fine diving save from Chamberlain and Dowie retrieved the loose ball and held it up. The ball was cleared by the Academy defence as far as Bonner who thumped a powerful 25-yard strike which was too strong for Chamberlain to keep out.
This time Academy could not salvage a point and Liverpool saw the game out during a tense last few minutes to put their title challenge back on course.
Bristol Academy: Siobhan Chamberlain, Grace McCatty, Corinne Yorston, Jaz Matthews, Jemma Rose, Angharad James (sub Cristina Vega Leandro 55mins), Natalia Pablos Sanchon, Alex Windell, Ann Marie Heatherson (sub Laura Walkley 86mins), Natasha Harding, Nikki Watts (sub Laura Del Rio 55mins). Subs not used: Ellie Curson, Rhian Cleverly.
Liverpool: Sarah Quantrill, Lucy Bronze, Corina Schroder (sub Becky Easton 74mins), Fara Williams, Gemma Bonner, Whitney Engen, Amanda Da Costa, Katrin Omarsdottir, Natasha Dowie (sub Kate Longhurst 88mins), Louise Fors (sub Sarah Gregorius 81mins), Nicole Rolser. Subs not used: Rachael Laws, Jess Holbrook, Katie Zelem, Sophia Riccio.
(top) Nicole Rolser shields the ball from Natasha Harding
(middle) Amanda Da Costa takes on Alex Windell
(bottom) Liverpool celebrate Nicole Rolser's goal
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