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Liverpool 3 (Dowie 53, Bronze 55, Williams pen 70) Bristol Academy 0
Liverpool jumped from third to first and retained their FA Women's Super League title after a 3-0 home victory over Bristol Academy, on a day of remarkable drama around the country in the division.
Matt Beard's side kicked off in Widnes as the outsiders in a three-team battle for the Championship with Chelsea and Birmingham City, requiring a win of their own and both rivals to falter against Manchester City and Notts County respectively.
Incredibly, it unfolded just that way. Natasha Dowie, Lucy Bronze and Fara Williams struck the goals to achieve the Reds' objective before results filtered in from elsewhere - amid jubilant scenes at the Select Security Stadium - to confirm that Chelsea had lost, Birmingham had drawn and the trophy was staying on Merseyside.
Aware of the necessity for three points, Liverpool were on the front foot from the off, with Katrin Omarsdottir going closest in the opening stages as her close range header was cleared off the goal line from Gemma Bonner's flick on.
Williams, a goalscorer in each of the previous two league fixtures, peppered numerous shots at the Bristol goal without success, although news from other grounds provided extra motivation - with Chelsea and Birmingham both falling two goals behind.
The home side in Widnes perhaps should have been ahead on the half hour as an incisive attack from the left channel brought opportunities for Gemma Davison and Omarsdottir again, only for visiting goalkeeper Mary Earps to thwart both attempts.
Amanda Da Costa had a brief sight of goal from 25 yards out on the right edge of the penalty area but looped her effort high over the bar, while Bronze directed a header unfortunately against the woodwork to leave the score goalless at the break.
Beard's side retained their momentum from the restart and grabbed a reward on 53 minutes when the breakthrough finally arrived. Davison capitalised on a defensive error to tee up Dowie, who calmly controlled and sidefooted through a thicket of bodies to put her side in front.
Within moments, the Reds doubled the advantage courtesy of outstanding approach work by Bronze, who drove along the right flank and into Bristol territory and forced the ball home at the near post.
On 70 minutes, the victory was put beyond any doubt by Williams. The midfielder stepped up to take responsibility from the penalty spot after Dowie had been fouled by Bristol captain Jemma Rose and coolly slammed into the bottom corner for a cushioning third.
No more goals were required as attention switched to other scorelines and, following a tense few moments once their own game had ended, it was confirmed: Liverpool were top of the table on goal difference and they could celebrate for a second season running.
Liverpool: Libby Stout, Lucy Bronze, Corina Schroder, Fara Williams, Gemma Bonner, Nina Pedersen (sub Becky Easton 77mins), Amanda Da Costa, Katrin Omarsdottir, Natasha Dowie, Gemma Davison (sub Kate Longhurst 77mins), Nicole Rolser (sub Martha Harris 45mins).
Bristol Academy: Mary Earps, Grace McCatty, Loren Dykes, Jaz Matthews, Jemma Rose, Sophie Ingle, Natalia Pablos Sanchon (sub Laura Del Rio 58mins), Angharad James, Natasha Harding (sub Gabriella Bird 82mins), Nikki Watts, Corinne Yorston (sub Georgia Evans 58mins).
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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