Georgia Stanway’s fifth and sixth goals in five games and Vicky Losada’s second in a matter of days claimed a vital win at the Banks’s Stadium to close the gap on fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, as Gareth Taylor’s side chase a top three spot.
A dominant display in wintry conditions in Walsall – with two pitch inspections required to ensure the game could go ahead – clinched City’s fifth successive victory and third in a week with 14 goals scored without reply!
There was more positive news, as teenager Khiara Keating followed up her midweek debut with her first league appearance, while Alex Greenwood clocked her 50th City game, captain Steph Houghon – fresh from signing a new contract – made her first league start since September and Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw featured for the first time in 2022.
City came flying out of the blocks and almost opened the scoring inside two minutes, as Losada whipped in a wicked delivery which just evaded the flying Lauren Hemp at the backpost.
Taylor’s side would not have to wait too long for the opener though as Stanway continued her impressive scoring streak, driving through the centre and drilling a low effort goalward which took a deflection off Meaghan Sargeant to wrong-foot Hannah Hampton and bounce into the back of the net.
It was the perfect start.
Though the visitors continued to dominate, chances in a stop-start opening 45 were limited – City struggling to break down a stubborn Villa defence.
Stanway saw another attempt deflected – this one whistled the wrong side of the post – after Losada had also dragged an effort wide.
The midfielder would net her second goal in two games though, converting from close range on 40 minutes after Lucy Bronze had picked Ellen White out beautifully to cross, to hand Taylor’s side a commanding half-time lead.
The second half proved similar to the first with chances sparse for both sides. Park drilled off-target early on, while Stanway fired over just before the hour.
At the other end, Keating was called into action for the first time, getting down well to deny Anna Patten's long-range strike.
The result was put beyond doubt with a little more than 15 minutes left, as substitutes Filippa Angeldahl and Janine Beckie combined - the Canadian crossing for Stanway to stab home her second at the backpost, capping a fine display.
How we lined-up...
Taylor made one change from the side that defeated Leicester in the Continental Cup in midweek, as Demi Stokes replaced Angeldahl.
Keating took her place in goal, shielded by a backline of Stokes, Greenwood, captain Houghton and Bronze.
Shaw returned to the matchday squad on the bench, while the game came too soon for Caroline Weir and Karima Taieb.
CITY XI | Keating, Bronze, Houghton (C) (Mace 72'), Greenwood, Stokes, Walsh, Losada (Angeldahl 66'), Stanway, Park (Beckie 66'), Hemp (Scott 72'), White (Shaw 72')
SUBS | Pilling, Coombs
VILLA XI | Hampton, Mayling (C), Sargeant (McLoughlin 24'), Asante, Lehmann, Arthur (Ewers 81'), Boye-Hlorkah (Hutton 64'), Brown, Hayles (Littlejohn 81'), Pacheco, Patten.
SUBS | Rogers.
Player of the Match: Georgia Stanway
With six goals in her last five games, the forward is on fire. Brimming with confidence, she had no hesitation in taking on the shot to open the scoring and was in the right place at the right time for her second.
Having deputised in the defensive role for so long, her selfless efforts are being rewarded, as she is taking her chance to shine at the sharp end of the pitch.
What it means...
City close the gap on fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur to a single point, though Spurs have a game in hand, hosting West Ham on Sunday.
Manchester United's 5-0 triumph over Birmingham saw the Red Devils leapfrog Spurs into third.
• With 61 goals for the Club, Georgia Stanway needs one more to equal Nikita Parris' all-time goalscoring record.
• Alex Greenwood made her 50th appearance for the Club in all competitions
• City have won 12 of our last 14 away games in the WSL (D1 L1), including each of our last four.
• Taylor’s side have won all four of our WSL matches against Aston Villa, scoring 17 goals in total while keeping a clean sheet in each match.
• Jill Scott’s appearance from the bench meant she became just the second player in WSL history to feature in 100 victories in the competition. City skipper Steph Houghton is the only other player to reach the milestone.
City play our first home game of 2022 with a Continental Cup quarter-final tie against Bristol City on Wednesday 19 January. It's a 19:00 kick-off at the Academy Stadium and tickets for all home games are on sale.
City v Arsenal
Tickets for City's first home league game of 2022 - a crunch FA WSL clash against Arsenal - are now on sale.
Don't miss your chance to cheer on Gareth Taylor's side on Sunday 23 January. Kick-off 18:45 at the Academy Stadium.
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