Lauren James displayed her scoring prowess with a brace as Women’s Super League leaders Chelsea extended their lead to six points with a commanding 3-0 victory over Brighton at Broadfield Stadium in Crawley. Emma Hayes’ reigning champions also saw Fran Kirby find the back of the net in this convincing win.
James, who notched a hat-trick against Manchester United the previous weekend, continued her stellar form with two more goals in the second half, taking her WSL season tally to 12, tying with Manchester City’s Khadija Shaw as the league’s top scorer.
The prolific England international was substituted 23 minutes from time, missing the chance to secure a second consecutive hat-trick, but allowing club-record signing Mayra Ramirez to make her debut.
Chelsea’s lead at the summit may see a reduction to three points, depending on the outcomes of Sunday’s clashes between title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal.
Hayes had criticized her team’s midweek Champions League performance against Real Madrid, describing it as “flat” and “boring.”
Lauren James returned to the starting lineup in one of three changes from that game, while new signing Mayra Ramirez was on the bench after joining from Levante for a reported British record fee of £384,000.
Despite dominating possession in the first half, Chelsea struggled to convert chances. Guro Reiten’s 13th-minute effort was pushed onto the woodwork by Brighton’s goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley, who made her 100th WSL appearance.
Brighton had a few escapes, including Kirby volleying over from close range, and the visitors failed to capitalize on their opportunities.
Chelsea asserted control after the break, with Lauren James opening the scoring with a half-volley, followed by Kirby nodding in from close range. James sealed the result by lashing in a third goal, securing the win for Chelsea.
The Blues comfortably managed the final half-hour, with Baggaley making saves to deny debutant Ramirez and the lively Reiten, securing their 3-0 triumph away to Brighton.