Sunderland Ladies manager Melanie Copeland insisted she was proud of her side’s display, despite succumbing 3-0 to star-studded Manchester City yesterday.
Nikita Parris fired a double to help City defeat the battling Wearsiders Sunderland at Mariners Park and extend their winning run to 16 games in call competitions.
Parris tapped home an Izzy Christiansen header in the first half before the latter doubled the lead early in the second period from a Parris cross.
The England International then added her second and City’s third to maintain the visitors’ 100 percent Women’s Super League 1 record this season.
Sunderland boss Copeland said: “It’s not a game we targeted to win, but we wanted to make it difficult for Manchester City and we did for large periods of the game.
“I think, when you defend for that long, you’ll do well not to concede any goals.
“I’m proud of the girls – they delivered the game plan we wanted, but we’re obviously disappointed with some of the goals.
“We know Manchester City play with width and we felt the formation we chose was best suited for this game.
“We practiced it in a friendly with Durham and the girls were comfortable doing it.”
Sunderland’s first chance came early on, with Dominique Bruinenberg taking aim from 20 yards, but it was a comfortable save for Karen Bardsley.
Captain Steph Houghton, facing her former club, almost opened up the Sunderland defence with a mazy run after 18 minutes, beating four defenders before her low cross from the right found Christiansen at the back post, only for the midfielder to skew the ball wide.
Ten minutes before the break, City took the lead. Abbie McManus’s cross was met by the head of Christiansen, who guided the ball back across goal where Parris was waiting to tap the ball home from a yard out.
In the 57th minute, the visitors doubled their lead with a swift counter-attack.
Former Sunderland star Jill Scott picked out the run of Parris on the right wing, the forward glided past Kylla Sjoman before crossing into the box where Christiansen made no mistake with a powerful header into the bottom right-hand corner.
With 17 minutes remaining, Parris netted her second of the game after breaking onto a fantastic diagonal ball to the right wing – taking the ball in stride before unleashing a vicious effort into the back of the net via the left upright.
Parris enthused: “It was a real team performance today in windy conditions.
“The pitch wasn’t the best, but you just have to get on with it. Not every pitch is going to be the best, but it was a great result for the girls.
“When teams park the bus against us, we have to break them down and we have to score goals because we want to win the league and win every game.
“But it was tough for the first 35 minutes, but once we went 1-0 up it was happy days for us.”
Asked about City’s opener, she added: “It’s a poacher’s goal, but I was just thinking I didn’t want Izzy’s header catching the wind and going wide so I tapped it home.
Sunderland Ladies: Rachael Laws; Hayley Sharp, Ellie Stewart, Victoria Williams, Kylla Sjoman; Rachel Pitman (Danielle Brown 43), Kasia Lipka, Zaneta Wyne (Mollie Lambert 82), Abbey Joice (Anna Young 68); Dominique Bruinenberg; Bridget Galloway Subs not used: Anke Preuss, Lucy Staniforth. Bookings: Victoria Williams, Rachael Laws
Manchester CIty Women: Karen Bardsley; Demi Stokes, Jennifer Beattie, Steph Houghton; Abbie McManus; Isobel Christiansen, Keira Walsh, Jill Scott (Jane Ross 61); Nikita Parris (Julia Spetsmark 76), Nadia Nadim, Claire Emslie (Mel Lawley 56). Subs not used: Ellie Roebuck, Mie Jans, Georgia Stanway, Ella Toone.
Durham Wildcats missed the chance to go level with second-top Millwall Lionesses in WSL 2 after going down 3-2 away to the Londoners.
Leigh Nicol’s long-range strike put the unbeaten hosts ahead before half-time and Billie Brooks’ header doubled their advantage early in the second half.
Beth Hepple gave Durham hope with an immediate reply, but Ashlee Hincks’ free-kick, fumbled into the net by keeper Helen Alderson, restored the lead, only for Jordan Atkinson’s solo finish to set up a tense finale.
Atkinson beat three players on the left, cut inside and curled the ball home for a memorable strike.
Durham midfielder Lauren Briggs added: “It was a frustrating, very hard 90 minutes for us.
“I just think, on the pitch, you can’t fault our commitment – we have put everything into that game.
“Yes, our keeper (Helen Alderson) has made a mistake but we had ample opportunities to put goals away in the second half.
“It shows our reaction that we went down to 3-1 and brought it back to 3-2. We had the desire and I’m sure that when they come up to ours in Durham, we’ll have them and end their unbeaten run.”
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