Gemma Bonner scored against her former club to give City a hard-fought 1-0 win over a stubborn Liverpool side at the Academy Stadium.
The defender nodded home Caroline Weir’s pinpoint free-kick midway through the first half to stretch Nick Cushing’s side winning run to five games in all competitions, though City created enough chances to secure a more comfortable victory.
Liverpool were indebted to keeper Anka Preuss, who made a couple of fine saves and forced Ellie Roebuck to do the same as they rallied during the closing stages.
It made for a nervy finale, but our defence held firm to guarantee a win which keeps us second in the FA WSL.
This was a game that transpired very much as the form guide would have predicted.
Winless Liverpool, with one league goal to their name all season set up to contain the hosts and it allowed free-scoring City to dominate possession and territory early on.
Despite the visitor’s game plan, the slickness of City’s midfield play, particularly in releasing the overlapping runs of the hugely impressive Janine Beckie from right-back, ensured Preuss was the busier of the two keepers.
And she was in fine form, tipping Tessa Wullaert’s fierce effort away before getting down smartly to keep out Ellen White’s angled drive from Keira Walsh’s inch perfect through ball.
With the elusive Wullaert linking midfield and attack together, Beckie and Lauren Hemp were a constant thorn in the side of the Reds’ full-backs, though their crosses fell just out of reach for White on several occasions.
For all the eye-catching play, City’s breakthrough came in more direct circumstances.
Weir’s free-kick from deep on the right was driven invitingly to the far post for Bonner to glance into the bottom corner for her third goal in as many games.
Roebuck was very much a spectator in the first half but Liverpool, inspired by the lively running of former Blue Mel Lawley, carried more of a threat after the break.
Bonner had already blocked from Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Sophie Bradley-Auckland had fired wide before Roebuck showed her class with a match-winning save.
Having tipped over Jade Bailey’s speculative 25-yard effort, the England keeper’s cat-like reflexes denied Niamh Fahey an equaliser, as she clawed away a header that looked destined for the back of the net.
With the Reds keeping hold of the ball far better than in the first half, City’s attacking threat was limited.
Georgia Stanway, on for White, fired over with time on her side after Beckie had sent her clear of Liverpool’s defence, while the Canadian couldn't keep her volley down as she met Hemp’s deep cross at the far post.
The Merseyside outfit refused to give up the fight, with Kirsty Linnett seeing an effort deflect wide, before Fahey headed the wrong side of the post in a tense final few minutes for the hosts, who gratefully held on for a vital win which allows us to keep pace with Arsenal at the top of the table.
Cushing made one change from the side which put five past Bristol City seven days earlier, handing Laura Coombs her league debut against her former club, with Jill Scott dropping to the bench.
It meant City retained the similar fluid formation of recent weeks.
Roebuck’s goal was protected by a back four of Beckie, Houghton, Bonner and Stokes, with Walsh and Weir sitting in front of them.
Hemp played wide on the left, while Coombs was narrower on the right to allow for Beckie to overlap, and Wullaert played just off centre-forward, White.
What it means
City remain second in the FA WSL on goal difference. We have 21 points from eight games, as do Arsenal, who top the table after their 11-1 win over Bristol City.
Chelsea have dropped to third, but have a game in hand after their clash with Everton was postponed due to a frozen pitch on Sunday.
City travel to London next weekend for a blockbuster clash with Chelsea. Kick-off is at 12noon (UK) at Kingsmeadow.