Sunderland’s Women’s Super League 1 dreams look over after losing at rivals Manchester City.
The Lady Black Cats lost the fourth v third WSL1 clash at the Acamemy Stadium to leave City as Chelsea’s principal challengers, given their remaining three games are at home.
Sunderland dropped to fourth with Arsenal having also leapfrogged them with a 2-0 win at Liverpool on Saturday.
Izzy Christiansen scored the only goal, heading in from eight yards in the 32nd minute.
Head coach Carlton Fairweather had ordered Sunderland not to give City any corners, only for his side to concede one in the first 20 seconds.
The Lady Black Cats goal was not threatened and, instead, it was the girls in stripes who made the better start to the game.
Brooke Chaplen had the first shot of the evening in the fourth minute, Karen Bardsley going down to her right to save following a good move involving Keira Ramshaw and Beth Mead.
Sunderland had the ball in the home box on more than one occasion but City were dangerous on the break and it required a good interception from Steph Bannon in her own area after Christiansen crossed towards Natasha Harding.
Christiansen was looking a threat and Rachael Laws dived to her left to save from the midfielder’s 15th-minute shot from the edge of the area.
There was a better save at the other end five minutes later when Abbey Joice cut in from the left and her strong shot was turned away for a corner by Bardsley who flung herself to her right.
Steph Houghton showed her defensive class in the 24th minute with a great tackle on Chaplen who had brokev forward from Rajmshaw’s high ball.
City went close, again, on the break just before the half hour with Tori Williams doing well to clear.
It was end-to-end stuff and a super Joice turn and run set up a shot for Chaplen but Bardsley was equal to it.
However, the sky blues went straight to the other end to take the lead.
They broke superbly with Krystle Johnson’s inch-perfect cross from the right headed past Laws by Christiansen from eight yards.
Sunderland recovered quickly with Holmes winning a corner but they could not force anything.
Man City 1
Great defensive work by Holmes rescued Sunderland at the start of the second half with Natasha Harding breathing down her neck.
The game went quiet for a long period with both sides guilty of misplaced passing.
But Mead went close to creating a Sunderland equaliser in the 62nd minute when she got the better of Stokes and broke into the box to find Chaplen but Kiera Walsh made the block and Jen Beattie cleared.
Sunderland needed a better final ball, they were having plenty of possession and Chaplen did well down the left but her cross was a wild one.
City were happy to sit back but they did come forward with Johnson’s shot from the edge of the area saved high by Laws.
Sunderland were still in it and Mead got a rare sight at goal, bringing a save from Bardsley down to her left.
Fairweather brought on Emma Kelly for Ramshaw with 15 minutes to go and the sub was and straight into action sending in a high cross which Holmes headed just over.
The Cats boss made his second change four minutes from time with Sarah McFadden replacing Kelly McDougall.
The Northern Ireland’s first contributions were in her own area, with a header and tackle following a City corner.
Sunderland could not make an impression in the opposition half and City held on to leapfrog them in the table.
MAN CITY 1
Man City: Bardsley, McManus, Houghton, Beattie, Stokes, Walsh, Scott, Christiansen, Harding, Johnson, Stanway (Flint 64).
Unused subs: Brooks, Brougham, Lipman, Radtke, Bronze
Goals: Christiansen 32
Booked: Scott 40
Sunderland: Laws, Holmes, Bannon, Williams, Greenwell, Joice, Furness, McDougall (McFadden 87), Chaplen, Ramshaw (Kelly 76). Mead.
Unused subs: Olsen, Roche, Beer
Referee: Natalie Aspinall