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  • Writer's pictureBy Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge

James hat-trick downs former side Man United and keeps Chelsea top of the WSL

Action from Chelsea v Manchester United Picture: Paul Lagan
Action from Chelsea v Manchester United Picture: Paul Lagan

Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge


Chelsea v Manchester United

20,473


Lauren James will take the plaudits – three goals, that downed her former side |Manchester United, but it was a team effort and a bit of good fortune that got the Blues over the line at Stamford Bridge and kept them top of the WSL.

Chelsea were excellent in the first half, bar the last five minutes, terrible in the second bar the last five minutes.

Having gone 2-0 up with superb goals from the England forward, Chelsea's defence let them down and allowed United to get back in to the game.

The second half saw a catalogue of errors, mainly from the back four which gave United the belief they could get something from the game.

But a general excellent resolve and some luck saw the Blues through the worst of it and James struck with five minutes left to seal her hat-trick and all the points.

Some early pressure by the home side yielded a couple of corners, nothing of significance came from them but it was a signal that the Blues were keen to get an early goal.

And that's exactly what happened on four minutes.

Excellent play by Erin Cuthbert, Ashley Lawrence, Guro Reiten, set up Lauren James. From a tight angle she produced a wonderful outside of the boot, in-swinger that cut across Mary Earps and landed in the far side of her net.

As Chelsea continued to dominate, Unite boss Mark Skinner was visibly becoming more irritated and at one point, on 18 minutes let out an almighty scream of anguish.

James was on the spot to beat the United offside trap on 22 minutes as she latched o to a crisp long ball from Natalie Bjorn.

The England hit woman produced a blistering right-footer that zipped past the despairing dive of Earps to double the west Londoners' lead.

Skipper Niamh Charles should have done better on30 minutes when, following another excellent build-up attack, she latched onto a deep byline cross by Johanna Rytting Kaneryd. But her shot crashed in to the side-netting.

Poor play by Lawrence saw he pass intercepted and the ball was fed to Lucia Garcia, but her shot, while on target, was weak and did not trouble Hampton.

But with what seemed like United's first concerted attack, they scored on 43 minutes. Chelsea slept-walked into the situation, failing to properly clear the ball, allowing Hayley Ladd to snap a loose ball into the back of the net from close range.

There were no changes by either side at half time.

United should have equalised when Ella Toone broke free, but an excellent last-ditch challenge from Lawrence denied the England midfielder.

Sensing the game was drifting away from her charges, Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes decided to bring on Sjoeke Nusken - off went ineffectual Mia Fishel on 55 minutes.

Some terrible defending by Hampton and Buchanan in particular sent waves of uncertainty around the Blues camp..

Hayes, clearly worried at the change in fortune hoped that they attacking play would stem the red tide.

United boss mark Skinner made a double change on came Parris and Lisa Naalsund, off went Ladd and Garcia.

Skinner and his bench were apoplectic when they were denied what they thought was a penalty when Leah Galton got the better of Lawrence.

They felt the defender fouled her but referee Abigail Bryne, on 75 minutes waved the appeal away.

Hayes then brought on Jess Carter for Buchanan to lend greater experience and authority to the back four.

Super sub Rachel Williams was introduced with 10 minutes left on the clock for United – off went Toone.

With the clock ticking away and Chelsea surviving their poor second half display, just, up popped James to beat the offside trap take a couple of touches before slotting the ball past Earps to give her a hat-trick and Chelsea three vital points.

James was given a standing ovation from the 20,473 cowed when she was substituted for Fran Kirby on the 89th minute.


Teams:

Chelsea: Hampton, Fishel, Leupolz, James, Reiten, Lawrence, Rytting Kaneryd, Charles, Cuthbert, Buchanan, Bjorn

Subs: Musovic, Ingle, Nusken, Carter, Kirby, Perisset, Mjelde, Cankovic, Beever-Jones


Man United: Earps, Le Tissier, Blundell, Toone, Zelem, Galton, Ladd, Riviere, Garcia, Turner, De Silva Ferreira

Subs: Tullis-Joyce, Guerrero, Evans, Naalsund, Parris, Williams

Referee


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