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Manchester City 1 (Johnston 17) Liverpool 0
Manchester City got back to winning ways with a hard fought victory over reigning Champions Liverpool in the Manchester sunshine.
A first half strike from Krystle Johnston proved enough to secure the win, and ensure the Blues move up to fourth in the table, level on points with the Merseyside outfit with five league games remaining.
The Blues had already faced off against the Reds twice this season, with honours level at kick off - Liverpool triumphed in the opening league game of the season, but City had revenge in the Continental Cup, when a spectacular goal from centre back Abbie McManus settled the game in the Blues' favour.
Eyeing a second consecutive win over the Merseysiders, Cushing made just one change from the starting XI that was so unlucky to leave West London empty handed. Emma Kete replaced youngster Natasha Flint, who was away on England duty, while captain Steph Houghton retained her place in the heart of defence after recovering from a head injury sustained at Chelsea.
City began brightly and Isobel Christiansen forced the first save of the afternoon within 60 seconds with a lofted shot that was gathered by Libby Stout.
However, the frenetic start cooled and there was little in the way of clear cut chances for either side in the opening stages, although the Blues enjoyed the vast majority of the possession and sought to build slowly rather than gift the ball back to the visitors.
It took 17 minutes for City to make that dominance count, when Johnston's strike took a wicked deflection on its way through a crowded box and looped into the roof of the net to the delight of the many Blue shirts in the crowd.
There may have a stroke of good fortune involved in the goal, but it was thoroughly deserved on the balance of first half play, as a disciplined City defence reduced their opponents to long range punts and apart from one shot blocked by Kathleen Radtke, Karen Bardsley was hardly troubled.
Meanwhile, at the other end, scorer Johnston was fortified by her early success and was close to doubling hers and City's tally on a number of occasions as half time approached. The Bury-born forward curled one effort into Stout's arms, and then fired over the bar shortly afterwards. However, it was almost third time lucky for Johnston when her fine lob required a fantastic save from Stout to tip the ball round the post.
As it was, the break arrived with City still holding on to their narrow lead, but they continued to fashion the best of a limited selection of chances after the restart.
Toni Duggan shot over the bar after being played in by Jill Scott, while Johnston's effort was tame after a good cross from Christiansen.
While chances to extend the lead may have been few and far between, City controlled the tempo of the game for the majority of the second half, and showed their professionalism in attempting to see out the match.
Liverpool rarely looked like scoring until the latter stages when, bolstered by a vocal away following, they began to pile the pressure on Bardsley's goal, but City remained resolute in defence and threw their bodies in front of the ball desperate to preserve the clean sheet.
Three Liverpool players had shots blocked as 90 minutes came up on the clock, while a mad scramble in stoppage time may have caused a few City hearts to leap into mouths, but Bardsley used all her experience to fall on the ball and kill the danger.
Manchester City: Karen Bardsley, Abbie McManus, Emma Lipman, Betsy Hassett, Kathleen Radtke, Steph Houghton, Krystle Johnston, Jill Scott, Toni Duggan, Emma Kete (sub Danielle Young 67mins), Isobel Christiansen.
Liverpool: Libby Stout, Lucy Bronze, Corina Schroder, Fara Williams, Gemma Bonner, Nina Pedersen, Amanda Da Costa, Katrin Omarsdottir, Natasha Dowie, Gemma Davison, Kate Longhurst (sub Becky Easton 73mins).
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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