Women's Super League: Liverpool & Bristol win to keep title race open

By Tony LeightonWomen's football reporter
Women's Super League: Liverpool beat Everton in Merseyside derby

Liverpool and Bristol Academy both won on Thursday as the prospect of a winner-takes-all title decider between the sides moved a step closer.

Natasha Dowie celebrated her England recall with a hat-trick as the top-of-the-table Reds beat rivals Everton 4-2.

Meanwhile an Aoife Mannion own goal gave Bristol a 1-0 victory against Birmingham City to move them ahead of champions Arsenal into second place.

Academy are five points behind the leaders, but they have a game in hand.

They will reduce the gap to just two points if they beat bottom side Doncaster Belles on Sunday, meaning the title would be decided by the match between the top two sides at Liverpool's home, Halton Stadium, on 29 September.

Liverpool finished bottom of the WSL in its first two seasons but have been front-runners this term after a huge investment from the club's American owners.

Dowie, who is the league's top scorer, was one of 12 close-season signings and her goals have put the Reds on the verge of their maiden top-flight title.

It is 10 years since a team other than Arsenal have won the English title, with Fulham winning the women's Premier League in 2003.

Liverpool 4-2 Everton

The game opened at a frantic pace and Liverpool went behind after just four minutes, striker Nikita Parris sweeping home a cross from midfielder Jill Scott.

But the Reds were level within two minutes, Dowie sending a neat lob over goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis.

The Toffees almost restored their lead when Scott had a header cleared off the line by midfielder Fara Williams.

Play continued to go from end to end before Dowie put Liverpool in front with a close-range finish on 31 minutes from left-back Corina Schroder's cross.

But Everton stormed back and Parris hoisted a superb 30-yard shot into the roof of the Reds net in the final minute of the first half.

German winger Nicole Rolser squandered a chance to put the home side back in front 10 minutes into the second half.

But Gemma Bonner made no mistake in the 64th minute, the defender powering in a far-post header from a Williams corner.

And five minutes from time Dowie completed her hat-trick, with a header from a Rolser cross, to take her season's goal tally to 18.

Bristol Academy 1-0 Birmingham City

Blues defender Mannion's late own goal handed Bristol a victory that kept them in the title hunt.

The home side did most of the pressing during in the first half, but their goal attempts never troubled goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer.

Strikers Natasha Harding and Laura Del Rio both sent shots narrowly wide before Del Rio's Spanish compatriot Natalia hit the bar in first-half stoppage time.

Six minutes after the break, Del Rio had a goalbound effort tipped onto the bar by Spencer.

But five minutes later home keeper Siobhan Chamberlain had to save from striker Kirsty Linnett as Blues looked to break the deadlock.

But Academy were not to be denied and the winner arrived when a Harding shot deflected in off Mannion 12 minutes from time.

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