Sunderland suffered a first home defeat of the season at the Hetton Centre today, damaging their chances of achieving a memorable league and cup double.
Leicester ran out 3-1 winners, but their incisive second half display could have seen them win by an even larger margin.
The visitors made the brighter start with some neat touches down the right hand side, but both sides appeared to have their minds elsewhere. It was not until the twelfth minute that the first half chance arrived, with Sarah Danby breaking free down the left, but her rising shot was turned around the post by Hall in the Leicester goal. Both sides cancelled each other out in midfield with Sunderland uncharacteristically resorting to long balls to try and exploit the pace of Sophie Williams.
Leicester came close to breaking the deadlock in the 33rd minute. A long free kick beat the defence and saw Meade running through on goal. Alderson did well to parry the shot with Lucy Bronze also coming to the girls rescue by clearing for a corner under pressure. Sunderland engineered another half chance five minutes later when Williams shot over from the edge of the box following a challenge from Natalie Gutteridge. Toussaint and Meade were causing quite a few problems for the home defence, and on 41 minutes Alderson was again called into action when a through ball beat Sunderlands offside trap, with Meades shot not quite managing to clear the keeper. Sunderland had a good chance to snatch the lead seconds before half time. A disputed corner was taken short and Danbys cross found Gemma Wilson free but her header from ten yards looped over the bar. HT Sunderland 0-0 Leicester
The home side began the second half positively when Williams latched onto a Lucy Staniforth through ball but her lob was comfortably saved by Hall. The clearest chances were still falling to the visitors and only goal line clearances by Williams and Jordan Nobbs prevented Leicester from taking the lead. The visitors pressure paid off in controversial circumstances on 57 minutes. Natalie Reay appeared to be offside when she ran on to Toussaints pass, but she advanced to the box unchallenged and beat Alderson at the near post. Demi Stokes replaced the tiring Danby on the left wing on the hour and almost made an immediate impact. Bronze won the ball in defence and passed to Stokes who surged through midfield before playing the ball wide left to Williams. Her far post cross found Staniforth but her header drifted wide. The home side were coming more into the game and a low Staniforth corner caused confusion in the Leicester defence, but Nobbs header was well saved. Parity was restored on 71 minutes when a teasing Staniforth corner was powered home by Gutteridge at the far post. Sunderland were unable to capitalise on their momentum and fell behind again almost immediately. Leicesters Jade Radburn did well to shake off the attentions of Stokes in midfield and played in Meade. She advanced into the penalty area and her low shot took a slight deflection and beat Alderson.
The game was now wide open and Leicester could have extended their lead two minutes later under somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Wilsons strong challenge in midfield rebounded into the path of Reay who again bore down on Aldersons goal, but her low shot beat both keeper and far post. Leicester had another chance when Meades right wing centre found Reay unmarked but she headed over, but a carbon copy of the move on the left flank saw them take an unassailable lead when Leanne Griffiths cross was headed home by the unmarked Meade. Sunderland were clearly shaken but Kelly MacDougal was unlucky to see a 30 yard effort just clear the bar. Sunderland were a spent force and Leicester saw the game out for a deserved victory. FT Sunderland 1-3 Leicester
Manager Mick Mulhern said ....."We never really got going and obviously the result was disappointing but we are strong enough to bounce back as we have a lot of quality in our squad"
MIDWEEK FIXTURES: Tuesday 14th April - Manchester City Res v Sunderland Res (Flixton FC, 7.00-7.30pm)
Thursday 16th April - Sunderland v Newcastle (Hetton Centre, 7.45pm)