Lauren James scored a brilliant hat-trick as Chelsea continued their unbeaten start to the Women’s Super League (WSL) season with an entertaining 5-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday.
James scored and also assisted an Aggie Beever-Jones header in the first half, with the goals coming either side of an unfortunate Jessica Carter own goal.
The England international sealed her hat-trick with two goals in the second half, before Sjoeke Nüsken added a fifth that ensured Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the table.
The win puts pressure on their rivals Arsenal to win their match against Brighton on Sunday, which would reduce the gap at the top back to three points.
Speaking about James, manager Emma Hayes said: “She’s the most naturally gifted footballer in the country.
“Lauren is a really intelligent footballer…I think she knows she’s got the ability to finish in and around the penalty area.”
In the 11th minute, record WSL appearance holder Sophie Ingle, playing her 184th league match, intercepted the ball in the midfield and played it through to James into acres of space down the left-hand side.
The England international drove forward unchallenged into the penalty area before slotting the ball into the far corner with her weaker foot for her first goal of the season.
Chelsea’s lead lasted only a minute though, with Shanice Van Der Sanden capitalizing on Carter giving the ball away just inside her own half.
The Liverpool forward drove down the right-hand-side, before sending in a cross that was steered into the net by Carter as she tried to make amends for her previous error.
The Blues restored their lead in the 24th minute – Lauren James became the provider as she found Beever-Jones at the back post to head home for her fourth goal in as many games this season.
Chelsea’s dominance continued in the second half, with James scoring her second in emphatic fashion.
She fired home from a tight angle in the left side of the penalty area after some battling hold up play by Sam Kerr in the 56th minute.
In the 64th minute, with her first involvement in the game, substitute Johanna Rytting-Kaneryd brilliantly beat a Liverpool defender on the right wing before cutting the ball back to James who powered the ball home to complete her hat-trick.
Sjoeke Nusken added a fifth for Chelsea, tapping in at the back post in the 78th minute as Kaneyrd registered her second assist of the game.
Despite Hayes making six changes to her starting eleven against Real Madrid on Wednesday, there was a fluidity about Chelsea’s attacking play as they impressed in front of the 12,802 fans in attendance at Stamford Bridge.
Hayes said: “Considering none of us really slept Wednesday night…I think it was a tremendous effort from the whole squad.”
The match was Chelsea’s third in the last six days, having only returned from Madrid in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Rotation will continue to be important for Hayes as Chelsea face Paris FC next in their second Champions League group stage game on Thursday.