The victory takes the recently defeated FA Cup finalists back to the summit of the FA Women’s Super League table alongside Liverpool whilst Blues sit in fourth position.
Blues boss David Parker named an unchanged side for the Vixens’ visit following the team’s impressive display during the 2-1 win over Chelsea last week.
The sun was shining down on the DCS Stadium as the sides kicked-off and Blues’ start was as bright as the playing conditions as they saw lots of the ball early on.
The hosts dictated the tempo and direction of the early stages, but could not create any chances to test Bristol goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain.
It took 14 minutes for the first shot on goal to come as Jemma Rose fired a long-range free-kick over the crossbar for the visitors.
A minute later, Blues had their first chance as Rachel Williams got free in the box, but poked her first-time effort wide from 10 yards out.
Five minutes before the interval saw Blues’ best first-half opening. After being warned by the referee for a couple of fouls, Jade Moore slalomed through the Bristol midfield to slip a ball through to Williams, but the onrushing Chamberlain just beat the England striker to the ball when she must have thought she was in.
Blues looked to replicate their early second-half start of last week as they went on the attack from the off with Williams having a snapshot in the box well blocked just seconds into the half. Jo Potter was also looking to add a sense of déjà vu to events as she struck a long-range free-kick which Chamberlain tipped behind for a corner.
Blues were continuing to press for an opening goal and came close again in the 55th minute. An intelligent one-two down the left flank between Harrop and Christiansen led to the former striking inches over from 20 yards out.
Two minutes later, Blues had their best chance so far. After another sustained spell of possession, Williams slipped a ball down the right-hand side of the box to find Melissa Lawley in space but her drilled effort was well held by Chamberlain.
In the aftermath, Isobel Christiansen was bizarrely booked for blocking the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance – despite having turned her back to the ball.
Bristol could have delivered a sucker punch on the hour-mark when a right-wing corner fell to Harding in the box. However, her effort was blocked on the line by Chelsea Weston and Blues escaped.
The visitors were beginning to get back into the game though and only a vital headed intervention by Laura Bassett five minutes later prevented a Harding cross being turned home.
As the game became more stretched, Blues should have taken the lead. Weston went on a trademark marauding run down the right flank and delivered an inch-perfect cross for Linnett to viciously volley towards goal. However, Chamberlain somehow got a glove to the effort to keep the scores level.
Blues would soon rue that missed opportunity. With only 12 minutes left on the clock, Bristol took the lead. Weston and Bassett challenged for the same ball and a fortuitous bounce took the ball into the path of Pablos Sanchon, but there was nothing lucky about her drilled finish which gave Marie Hourihan no chance and ensured the Spanish striker was ‘living la vida loca’.
As the home side pressed for an equaliser, Bristol snatched another goal on the counter-attack.
Another Spaniard, substitute Laura Del Rio, chased down a back pass like a bull to a matador and was rewarded when Hourihan’s clearance ended up at her feet. The Iberian had the presence of mind to roll the ball across the box to Harding who took a touch before firing into an unguarded net to seal the points.
Blues continued to push for a way back into the game, but Katie Wilkinson’s late effort went wide as the Vixens left victorious.
Blues: Hourihan; Weston, Harrop, Bassett (c) Westwood; Christiansen (Wilkinson, 72), Moore, Potter, Lawley; Linnett, Williams.
Unused subs: Earps, Simpkins, Torkildsen, George, Haines.
Bookings: Christiansen (58)
Bristol Academy: Chamberlain, Yorston (c), Matthews, Pablos Sanchon (Hignett, 81), Heatherson, Curson, Watts (Del Rio, 61) James, Haynes, Rose, Harding.
Unused subs: Cleverly, Leek, Evans.
Goals: Pablos Sanchon (78), Harding (86)
Bookings: Hignett (88)