Johnston (17 mins)
- Match reports
- 27 July 2014 16:40
- Posted by @porter_mcfc
Manchester City Women 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.
Nick Cushing’s side began the game aiming to put last weekend’s disappointing last-gasp defeat to Chelsea behind them by collecting all three points at the Manchester Regional Arena.
The Blues' boss was delighted with the response he received from his players.
"I asked for a reaction after the Chelsea game and I got one," he stated. "When I asked for it, I communicated that I didn't mean I wanted the players to run around and show a lot of effort - I wanted them to stick to the plan and implement what we've been working on into the game.
"I thought we really looked comfortable and confident in possession - particularly in the first half - and I was pleased with the way we built from the back from the first minute for some good periods.
"We did that really well and that allows us to gain control of possession and create chances.
"The arena is becoming a bit of a fortress for us and I thought the crowd were exceptional. It was a great atmosphere with lots of noise and that spurs the players on. They like playing at home because they receive great support."
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 Paula Radtke, Karen Bardlsey 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.
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.
In the end, it was a thoroughly deserved three points and a display of strength and character in front of over 900 supporters, and Cushing’s side march on with a fourth win in five games.