Reading and Birmingham both continued their charge on the top two with respective wins over Sunderland and Arsenal as Liverpool and Everton took a point a piece before Man City put six past Bristol.
Sunderland 0-2 Reading
Sliding up to third in the table with a win, Reading hit the ground running in South Shields, the visitors finding the breakthrough six minutes before the break. Allowed to dash through the midfield, as the defence gave way, Fara Williams pulled the ball home for the seventh time this season. Moments later, Rachel Furness doubled the lead for the Royals, walloping the ball home from the edge of the area after being played in by a determined Rachel Rowe. Improvements for the hosts only counted for so much as they failed to trouble Mary Earps before the Reading number one was shown a straight red for handling outside of the area, Grace Moloney left undisturbed for the last ten minutes of the match.
Possibly still smarting after their 2-3 loss away to the Gunners earlier in the season, the Blues made no mistakes when the London side came to Damson Park, hitting their opposition for three of the best.
Having netted both goals against Arsenal last time out, Ellen White wasted no time in opening the scoring against her former club. Marisa Ewers’ pass through the midfield gave White something to charge down ten minutes in, the striker slipping through the advanced defence before curling the ball over Sari van Veenendaal from the top of the box. One became two five minutes before the break as White swept Emma Follis’ pinpoint cross home at the near post. With three goals from the spot to her name already for the year, Aoife Mannion couldn’t make it four when she saw her penalty well saved by van Veenendaal fifteen minutes from time. Despite the miss, the Blues still had time to find a third as White completed her hat trick, with a fine chip to the top left corner.
The win is enough to see Birmingham gear up for an end-of-season push, the loss enough to leave the Gunners considerably off of the pace to chase for top two.
With the Merseyside derby a close affair in recent times it may have been of little surprise when it ended in a draw, the improving Blues able to pull level after Laura Coombs’ opener immediately after the restart. Still boasting a young team, the youthful side did well to hang on against a Liverpool team not having things all their own way this year. The ball dropped by Siobhan Chamberlain at a corner after the hour saw the visitors gifted the equaliser as Jodie Brett backheeled the ball home as it dropped in behind her. The lone point enough to pull Everton within two of Sunderland as the Reds dropped back behind Birmingham in the pecking order.
Standing up well to the pressure of their opposition, the Vixens slipped behind five minutes before half time when Jill Scott nodded Claire Emslie’s whipped corner home. The Scot was involved again after the break as the floodgates opened, her precision free kick curling perfectly past Sophie Baggaley. A quick-fire double left no room for a home comeback as first Jane Ross slotted the ball home before Nikita Parris hammered her shot into the back of the net.
Not all one-way traffic however, the Vixens pulled one back through Millie Turner, the skipper bright to turn the ball home after Karen Bardsley had saved Lauren Hemp’s initial effort. Not always on a song in front of goal, the Citizens refused to let up and substitute Nadia Nadim made it five with a cute chip eight minutes after coming on. Having taken top spot on goals scored alone during the match, the visitors continued to bolster their goal difference, going two clear of Chelsea as Melissa Lawley added another in stoppage time.