A Lauren James hat-trick gave Chelsea a five-star victory at Stamford Bridge as they beat Liverpool 5-1 to extend their lead at the top of the WSL to six points.
James opened the scoring for the hosts with a driven shot across goal before Liverpool provided an immediate response as Jess Carter sent a Shanice van de Sanden cross into her own net. Chelsea were soon back in front as Aggie Beever-Jones headed home before the break.
It was all blue in the second half as James added two to complete her hat-trick and Sjoeke Nusken poked home the fifth. The result ends Liverpool’s four game unbeaten away run as they remain fifth in the league.
It was a day to remember for Sophie Ingle who, facing her former club, became the record WSL appearance holder with 184 appearances to move clear of Kerys Harrop.
Chelsea made six changes from their midweek Champions League clash against Real Madrid with Beever-Jones rewarded with a start. Most surprising, the omission of Millie Bright from the matchday squad.
Liverpool made two changes from their draw with Tottenham Hotspur last weekend with van de Sanden and Emma Koivisto coming in to the starting XI.
Chelsea showed early dominance in the opening minutes of the clash at Stamford Bridge. James and Niamh Charles looked threatening and combined to win a corner in the 7th minute and for most of the opening 10, it was a sea of blue camped out around the Liverpool box.
It did not come as a surprise then when Chelsea came on the attack once more in the 11th minute. Ingle forced a turnover just inside the Liverpool half before threading the ball to James on the left.
James was able to drive at the box, finding the space to take a shot and slot the ball past Rachael Laws at the far post.
The goal was something of a wake-up call for Liverpool who quickly found themselves on the attack following the restart.
It was Van de Sanden leading the charge as she broke away down the right before firing a cross into a melee of red and blue shirts. It was an unfortunate touch from Jess Carter that turned the ball into the back of the net and saw the visitors level within a minute.
From there, Liverpool grew into the game though the momentum remained with Chelsea.
That momentum saw dividends once more in the 23rd minute and it was James involved once more for the league leaders.
Picking up the ball on the left, she curled in a pinpoint cross that dropped perfectly for Beever-Jones to head back across goal and past the helpless Laws.
The goal made it four goals in four matches for Chelsea’s rising star on her first Chelsea start.
Liverpool saw a shot cleared off the line by Chelsea and Sam Kerr was to force a professional foul from Gemma Bonner after the prolific striker looked to go clear from a ball over the top. Following the flurry of early action, however, the remainder of the first half was notably more settled.
Chelsea showed their credentials as league leaders from the restart as they forced a clearance off the line from Bonner within the first minute.
They were soon to be rewarded with more goals.
In the 55th minute it was the talismanic Sam Kerr who picked the ball up in the centre of the pitch before playing in James down the left once more.
It was a trademark move for Chelsea and it was another trademark finish for James as she charged into the box to fire across goal, low into the far corner.
Liverpool just could not contain James. Minutes after entering the field of play, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd broke away down the right to cut back and it was the Chelsea number 10 once more first to meet the ball and poke beyond Laws.
A hat-trick for James, Chelsea three goals clear and looking all but certain that they would be securing the three points.
Chelsea would only extend their dominance as Rytting Kaneryd once more provided a threat down the right, squaring the ball across the box for Nusken to poke home at the far post.