City moved six points clear at the Barclays Women’s Super League summit with a 4-0 win over relegated Bristol City.

All four goals arrived in the second half and a spectacular Mary Fowler strike from distance broke the deadlock just after the hour at Ashton Gate, with the Australian then doubling the advantage from Lauren Hemp’s searching cross.

Amy Rodgers turned into her own net with around 15 minutes to play as Taylor’s side sealed the points in style, crucially increasing our goal difference in the process as Alex Greenwood added a fourth deep into stoppage time.

Victory also saw City equal the longest winning run in WSL history, with this our 14th success in a row as our title bid continues to gather momentum.

What happened?

With Chelsea in UEFA Champions League action, City knew we could put some daylight between us and the reigning champions with a victory in Bristol, albeit having played two more games than our title rivals.

And in the absence of WSL top scorer Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw, Chloe Kelly led the line for City on a sunny evening at Ashton Gate.

The England international was causing problems early on, forcing the first save out of Shae Yanez after combining well with Fowler down the right.

City were beginning to turn the screw after a relatively even start, with some typically intricate one-touch play creating an opening for Hemp as the midway point in the half approached.

The winger, fresh from signing a three-year contract extension earlier in the week, was denied a goal against her former club by Yanez on this occasion though.

For all of the visitors’ possession, genuine sights of goal remained at a premium, and Khiara Keating had to be alert to a dangerous ball across the City goal just after the half hour.

The goalkeeper and Vixens forward Amalie Thestrup clattered into each other as they went to meet the cross but were both thankfully okay to continue after a lengthy stoppage.

There was time for one final chance right on the stroke of half-time though, and it was City’s biggest of the opening 45.

Taylor’s side had found some joy down the flanks, and it was a searching cross from Leila Ouahabi which found Hemp at the far post.

The winger’s diving header forced another fine save out of Yanez but would have surely broken the deadlock if it’d been just a fraction further away from the goalkeeper’s clutches.

The boss made a change at the break, with Kerstin Casparij coming on for Alanna Kennedy, and the full-back’s miscued cross soon after the restart had Yanez scrambling to her near post but could only find the side netting.

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City were beginning to unlock the hosts’ stubborn defence, with a side-footed volley from Hemp trickling agonisingly wide of the far post in similar fashion to a Laia Aleixandri header soon after.

There was a growing sense that a goal was coming, and it arrived in spectacular fashion from Fowler just after the hour.

Picking up play on the edge of the Bristol box, the Australian launched an unstoppable drive into the top corner with her weaker foot to hand City the lead.

Taylor’s side could smell blood, with Hemp glancing a header just inches wide of the mark moments later.

But number two would follow when the winger sent a spectacular ball into the near post, with Fowler waiting to slide home her second of the evening with a clinical finish.

With goal difference potentially playing an important role in the direction of the WSL title race, a third strike for City was a welcome sight soon after, when Rodgers deflected a dangerous ball into her own net when under pressure.

Taylor’s side had been made to wait for the win with Bristol City competing valiantly as their WSL survival prospects trickled away.

Kelly sent a vicious half-volley just over the bar after the ball fell kindly to her on the angle in stoppage time, but there was still time for one final goal at Ashton Gate.

It fell to Greenwood, whose powerful header from a corner had too much on it for Yanez to claw the ball away, rounding off an impressive second half display.

Player of the Match: Mary Fowler

The Australian’s energy and quality from out wide ultimately provided the spark for the game’s decisive goal.

Fowler was sharp and alert when linking up with her team-mates, and clinical when the chance eventually presented itself for her stunning strike.

What it means

Victory for City moves us six points clear at the WSL summit, though second-place Chelsea have two games in hand.

However, we now boast a goal difference which is seven superior to our rivals - an advantage that could prove significant come season’s end.

How we lined up

Gareth Taylor made one change to the side who beat West Ham United in our previous WSL encounter, with Chloe Kelly coming in to replace the injured Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw as centre-forward.

It meant Khiara Keating’s goal was shielded by a back four of Laia Aleixandri, Alanna Kennedy, Alex Greenwood and Leila Ouahabi.

The midfield three comprised of Yui Hasegawa, Jess Park and Laura Coombs, with Mary Fowler and Lauren Hemp starting on the flanks.

CITY XI: Keating, Aleixandri, Kennedy (Casparij 46’), Greenwood (C), Ouahabi, Hasegawa, Park, Coombs (Blindkilde Brown 73’), Fowler, Hemp, Kelly.

SUBS: Startup, Houghton, Angeldahl, Morgan, Pritchard, Blindkilde Brown, Mace.

BRISTOL CITY XI: Yanez, Layzell (Ward 67’), Aspin (Struck 88’), Connolly, Rodgers, Furness (Evans 73’), Napier, Bull, Syme, Thestrup (Jones 46’), Morgan (Harrison 46’).

SUBS: Bentley, Powell, Hayles, Stratigakis.

Up next

City welcome Arsenal to the Joie Stadium for our final home match of the 2023/24 campaign in our next fixture.

Kick-off is set for 14:15 (UK) on Sunday 5 May, with the match also representing captain Steph Houghton’s last game at the Joie Stadium before her retirement.

To grab your tickets, click here.

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