Bethany England struck as Liverpool secured a vital win against FA Women’s Super League 1 leaders Manchester City in Chester.
Striker England’s first-half header was enough for Scott Rogers’ side, who moved up to fifth in the table, to run out 1-0 winners.
City remain top but Chelsea – England’s parent club – have a game in hand in second.
Liverpool Ladies 1-0 Man City Women FT:
10' ⚽️ England
Here's Bethany England's winning goal that earned her team a vital three points tonight… 👏 pic.twitter.com/GCgAmXVHoP
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 8, 2018
The hosts enjoyed the better chances in the opening exchanges, with England netting the winner after just 10 minutes.
A short corner was played to Alex Greenwood, who crossed for striker England to powerfully head home from inside the area.
The Chelsea loanee almost grabbed a second goal on 21 minutes, latching onto a through ball from Caroline Weir, but City goalie Karen Bardsley was quickly off her line to make a block.
The visitors quickly attempted to hit back and midfielder Jill Scott had a close-range header scrambled away off the line by Sophie Ingle on 24 minutes while Nikita Parris hit the side-netting with a low drive on 41 minutes.
The second half began scrappily, with neither side able to get a foothold, Liverpool’s Laura Coombs having the best chance to add to the scoreline on 62 minutes – but her speculative long-range strike was held by Bardsley.
City increased the pressure in the closing 10 minutes, with skipper Steph Houghton seeing a header blocked by two Liverpool defenders on 84 minutes.
Nick Cushing’s high fliers almost found a dramatic equaliser in added time but Houghton’s 20-yard free-kick went over the bar.
What they said
Liverpool match-winner Bethany England said: “City are a great team. They’ve got so many attacking threats but we executed our game plan so well and managed to limit their chances on our goal.
“We know that in games like this, you are going to get very few chances. We probably got more than we anticipated and we possibly could have got a second if we had been more clinical.
“However, it was crucial that we got the first goal. Sometimes, when we go behind, it’s a challenge to get back into it, especially against a team like City.
“Every single girl was fantastic tonight. You cannot knock them for effort. They put an absolute shift in and some of us will come away with a few bumps and bruises but you just have to put your body on the line.”
Manchester City head coach Nick Cushing said: “We have to make sure that result does not damage us.
“We’ve got three games left and we have to fight for a league, and if not a league, fight for second and Champions League football.
“I don’t think we were ourselves – we didn’t really have any momentum, or control of the game.
“We need to defend better against counter-attacks, as that is where their goal came from. We need to get back to playing the way we play, and thinking the way we think within games.
“Liverpool are very organised. If you give them any enthusiasm or momentum, they will take it.
“The moment they go 1-0 up, they go 10, even 20 yards deeper and then run harder and we didn’t punish them enough.”
Beth Hepple marked her 100th appearance for Durham with a goal as the Wildcats got the better of Aston Villa.
Hepple got the hosts off to a flying start, netting from the spot on 17 minutes, before Zoe Ness doubled the advantage in the second period, with Jordan Atkinson adding gloss to the scoreline with four minutes to go.
In what was a keenly contested opening, there were few opportunities of note, with the penalty the first moment of panic in either box.
Nicki Gears was the one to tumble in the area, going down under the challenge of a sprawling Aja Aguirre in the Aston Villa goal.
Hepple then showed composure to find the bottom corner from 12 yards.
Villa were looking solid throughout and were clearly well-drilled, and they had two aerial attempts, Tash Baptiste nodding wide from a corner before heading straight at Durham keeper Helen Alderson on 33 minutes.
The striker came even closer to putting her side level on 50 minutes when her fierce drive took a wicked deflection before thumping against the bar.
The visitors were pressing for an equaliser and it nearly arrived in the 65th minute when Elizabeta Ejupi unleashed a dipping half-volley – however, Alderson was on hand to push over the bar.
Villa would be made to pay for their profligacy as the hosts scored a crucial second with 20 minutes to go.
Ness latched on to an innocuous long ball forward before smashing past Aguirre.
Substitute Atkinson then wrapped up the win with a well-placed 86th-minute strike of her own when teed up by Kathryn Hill, as Durham pulled clear.
What they said
Durham’s Beth Hepple said: “I think it was a bit of a scrappy game and I think we took our chances when they came to us. A clean sheet was really important for us as a squad, as well.
“We haven’t had one of them for a while, so that was a confidence-boost going into the final couple of games.
“It was a really good day for me personally but the most important thing was we won – however, I do like scoring.
“We went into this season wanting to win the league, so it has been a little bit disappointing but we have just got to keep going.”
Aston Villa captain Chloe Jones said: “The last few weeks, we have been having really good second-half performances – this was a rare occurrence where we started from the get-go.
“It’s difficult with where we are in the league at the minute because the confidence in the players is quite low.
“If they were scoring week-in, week-out, those chances would be flying in. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.
“We will go away from here and it will seem like Durham rolled us over but that’s not the case. It was a really good battle and we should have come away with a point – if not three.”
To buy tickets to an FA Women’s Super League match near you click here: www.fawsl.com/tickets