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Lauren James fires Blues to victory with a hat-trick at Stamford Bridge as Emma Hayes’ side extend their lead at the top of the Women’s Super League


  • Lauren James netted a hat-trick as Chelsea beat Man United at Stamford Bridge
  • Emma Hayes’ side now three points clear at the top of Women’s Super League
  • Football is changing… managers can’t rely on their reputation. Just look at the Golden Generation – It’s All Kicking Off 



Ten points separate Chelsea and Manchester United in the Women’s Super League.

But the difference between the two teams on the pitch yesterday was a player who United let slip from their grasp. Lauren James‘ hat-trick, her second at Stamford Bridge this season, strengthened Chelsea’s grip on the title and in turn piled the pressure on United boss Marc Skinner.

James left United in 2021 for a variety of reasons but the main one being that Chelsea win trophies. So far, United have failed to do so. They pushed the Blues for the title until the final day of last season, finishing one point behind them. It is concerning that the gap is widening, rather than narrowing.

James had Chelsea 2-0 up inside 23 minutes but when United pulled a goal back before half-time, they had several chances to equalise. As Chelsea so often do under Emma Hayes, they dug in, before James put the game beyond doubt in the 85th minute.

If Chelsea are to win a fifth successive WSL title without the injured Sam Kerr, their top scorer for the past three seasons, they will need James to step up and fill the void. Yesterday was a fine example of how good she can be.

Lauren James netted a hat-trick as Chelsea defeated Manchester United to extend their lead at the top of the WSL
The England international fired the hosts into the lead after just five minutes on Sunday
But the visitors hit back before half-time with Hayley Ladd poking home inside the penalty box

‘Her finishing was second to none,’ Hayes said of James. ‘She’s a natural finisher. That’s her ninth goal in five games, prior to this she’d scored nine goals in four seasons so that shows the growth in her game. 

MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Hampton 7, Lawrence 7, Buchanan 6.5 (Carter 77, 6) Bjorn 7, Charles 6.5, Leupolz 7, Cuthbert 7.5, Kaneryd 7.5, James 9 (Kirby 88), Reiten 6, Fishel 6 (Nusken 54, 6.5)

Subs not used: Musovic, Ingle, Perisset, Mjelde, Cankovic, Beever-Jones

Goals: James 5′, 23′, 85′

Manager: Emma Hayes

 

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Earps 5, Riviere 5, Le Tissier 6, Turner 6, Blundell 5 (Evans 90+5), Ladd 6.5 (Naalsund 69, 6), Zelem 5, Garcia 6 (Parris 69, 6) Toone 6 (Williams 81), Galton 6, Geyse 6.5

Subs not used: Tullis-Joyce, Guerrero, Williams

Booked: Ladd, Parris

Goals: Ladd 43

Manager: Marc Skinner

 

Referee: Abigail Byrne

Attendance: 20,473

 

‘That was Lauren at her best today.’

Some United fans have called for Skinner to be sacked and fans made there were ‘Skinner Out’ signs in the away end.

‘I have no doubt what I am going to achieve with this team,’ Skinner insisted. ‘I’m not going to let it [criticism] drip into my psyche. We know we have to be perfect in every game. I still think there are points to be dropped from other teams.’

James had been booed by the United end as she went to take a corner in the third minute. Nonplussed, the forward smirked, taking it in her stride. Two minutes later, she silenced the away end with the opening goal. Chelsea had too much time in United’s box as Johanna Rytting Kaneryd exchanged passes with Melanie Leupolz before threading the ball through to James, whose flicked shot deflected off Millie Turner and spun into the bottom right corner. James sauntered over to the United fans with her arms outstretched and gave them a nod.

Her second was route one. A long ball from Nathalie Bjorn went over the top of the United defence and James ran through to send a powerful half-volley past Earps at her near post.

United had offered little and their frustrations were clear when Maya Le Tissier gave Geyse an earful for not challenging for the ball from a throw-in. That dressing down seemed to kick the forward into life and her quick footwork created United’s goal. The forward skipped past Niamh Charles and sent in a cross which was finished by Hayley Ladd.

United should have equalised early in the second half when Ella Toone was through on goal, but Ashley Lawrence made a superb last-minute tackle as the forward went to shoot. United had momentum but wasted another chance to bring themselves level when Hannah Hampton saved Ladd’s close-range shot in the box.

Victory leaves the Blues in pole position to retain their Women’s Super League title this season
Meanwhile Marc Skinner’s side have now lost back-to-back games in the Women’s Super League

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, launching with a preview show today and every week this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

FIVE TALKING POINTS

1) Bunny Shaw scored her third hat-trick in four games as Manchester City beat Liverpool 5-1. Shaw missed out on the golden boot by one goal last season but leads the scoring charts with 12 so far this term. The striker also bagged trebles against Tottenham and Everton.

2) Lauren James’ hat-trick at Stamford Bridge means she now has the most goals at the stadium of any player — male or female — this season, with seven. James has scored back-to-back trebles in league games against Manchester United and Liverpool, and also netted in the opening game of the season against Spurs. Raheem Sterling and Cole Palmer have fared best for the men at the Bridge, with five goals apiece.

3) Leah Williamson could make her long-awaited return to action when Arsenal take on Liverpool on Sunday. The England captain is eight months into an expected nine-month recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, which caused her to miss last summer’s World Cup. Williamson has now been in full training with Arsenal for a month and boss Jonas Eidevall has said she will be in contention for the trip to Prenton Park.

4) Following their impressive FA Cup win over Reading last week, third-tier Wolves were due to play West Brom in the semi-final of the Birmingham Challenge Cup yesterday. But the club were forced to postpone the game after 14 of their players were struck down by food poisoning after eating a batch of post-match chicken wraps at last weekend’s tie with the Royals. Reading’s Championship game with Birmingham was also postponed.

5) Broadcaster DAZN have removed the paywall for all live women’s football matches on their platform to help promote the game. It comes as part of the company’s ‘New Deal for women’s football’ campaign, which has been introduced to help boost investment and make the sport more financially sustainable.

There was controversy in the 75th minute when United thought they should have had a penalty after Leah Galton went down under a challenge from Ashley Lawrence. 

Skinner and the United bench erupted but referee Abigail Byrne was unmoved. Replays suggested she had made the right decision.

Chelsea had been hanging on for much of the half but when the chance came for James to wrap up the game, she took it superbly. 

Sjoeke Nusken’s header sent James through and she out-paced Le Tissier to slot the ball past Earps.



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