Bristol City 2 Sunderland Ladies 1: Unbeaten start to the Championship season ended abruptly

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Sunderland Ladies’ unbeaten start to the Championship season ended abruptly with a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Bristol City.

Following a goalless first half played in horrendous conditions, Melissa Johnson’s spot-kick and a fortunate long-range free-kick from Aimee Palmer gave the Robins a commanding lead before the hour.

Charlotte Potts almost sparked a third successive comeback for the Black Cats, but her header from Emma Kelly’s corner was only a consolation.

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Sunderland Ladies manager Mel Reay made one change from the team who drew against Lewes at the Stadium of Light last time out, Faye Mullen coming in for Megan Beer in defence.

Charlotte Potts in action for Sunderland Ladies.Charlotte Potts in action for Sunderland Ladies.
Charlotte Potts in action for Sunderland Ladies.

With surface water making it difficult to build momentum, both sides enjoyed spells of possession during the opening stages without testing each other.

The first chance of the game came from the hosts after a good passing move found Johnson on 20 yards out, who dragged her left footed shot wide.

Moments later, Keira Ramshaw skipped past a sliding challenge on the edge of the area but fired high and wide after good work from Faye Mullen and Jessica Brown down the right.

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Adjusting better to the weather, the Robins began to build momentum and forced a fantastic double save from Claudia Moan on the half hour.

The goalkeeper tipped Harrison's cross onto the bar before denying Aggie Beever-Jones’ follow up. The loose ball was then frantically cleared by Mullen for a throw-in.

With the break approaching, a long ball from defence was superbly brought down by Abi Harrison close to the by-line who held off Grace McCatty’s challenge to tee up Johnson who drew another good stop from Moan.

The stopper was in the thick of the action again early in the second half, clawing away Palmer’s dangerous in-swinging corner from under the crossbar.

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After an hour, the Robins opened the scoring. The ball was played down the left to Johnson whose, flick was handled by McCatty, and the forward stepped up to calmly pass the ball into the bottom corner.

Four minutes later, it was two. Aimee Palmer launched a high freekick from halfway into the box which caught the wind and flew over Moan. In a frantic end to the game, Johnson had a third ruled out for offside before Potts gave Sunderland a glimmer of hope. Emily Scarr, one of four substitutes, won a corner which was curled in by Kelly, which was headed past Fran Bentley via a deflection.

Potts’ goal inspired the away side who continued to push forward in the latter stages, with Iris Achterhof denied by a brilliant last-ditch block, but they were unable to find an equaliser which would preserve their 100 percent league record.

Focus now turns to next Sunday’s Wearside derby against Durham who top the table following a 2-0 victory over Lewes, with the Black Cats four points behind in sixth.

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Sunderland: Moan; Mullen, McCatty, Potts, Griffiths; Kelly, Herron (Manders ’87), Farrugia (Scarr ’62); Brown (Achterhof ’62), Ramshaw (McInnes ’87), Joice.

Subs not used: Cowling, Beer, Blakey

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