Manchester City blew the Women’s Super League title race wide open after Khadija Shaw netted the winner in a 1-0 victory over Chelsea that took them level on points with the four-time defending champions at the summit.

The Jamaica international extended her Golden Boot-leading tally to 14 goals in 13 appearances, two more than Chelsea’s Lauren James, who was largely quiet in front of a sold-out Kingsmeadow.

Chelsea had what might have been an all-important penalty shout dismissed before the break and it took an outstanding effort by City keeper Khiara Keating to keep out the Blues in a thrilling second-half stoppage-time surge.

The top two sides head into their last eight matches level on 34 points and even on goal difference, with Chelsea’s 41 goals five more than City’s total, allowing them to remain leaders for another week.

It was Keating, who extended her WSL-leading clean sheet tally to seven, who was first called into action when Nathalie Bjorn nodded Erin Cuthbert’s corner in her direction.

Chelsea fell behind after 14 minutes when Jess Park dispossessed Cuthbert inside the hosts’ half and cut across to Shaw, who blasted the opener past Hannah Hampton, moments later coming close to another but dragging her shot wide before another effort was saved by the Blues keeper.

It was the beginning of a dominant spell for the visitors, who tested Hampton again through Laia Aleixandri’s header before Chelsea finally broke back and Guro Reiten was denied at the near post.

Chelsea wanted a penalty when Alex Greenwood broke up January signing Mayra Ramirez’s run at the edge of City’s six-yard box and in replays appeared not to touch the ball, but with no VAR in play referee Abigail Byrne dismissed the shout.

The Blues continued to apply pressure as an outstretched Keating was just able to get her fingertips on the edge of Fran Kirby’s effort across the face of goal following some excellent work by James in the build-up for the Blues’ best chance of the half.

It was a more aggressive Chelsea side who returned after the break, though it was Shaw who had the best early chance, Leila Ouahabi’s cross coming a bit too early as the striker stooped forward to meet it.

Chloe Kelly stung Hampton’s hands with just under 20 minutes remaining, the hosts then coming painfully close when Cuthbert aimed for the top corner, sending Keating into a dive and fans into a premature celebration as the skipper’s effort ultimately sailed wide.

City needed another goal to lift themselves into the top spot, but if anyone was going to change the scoreline it looked to be Chelsea, who dominated from the final 10 minutes through nine minutes of added time, when Keating made a huge stop to deny substitute Jelena Cankovic snatching a late leveller.

It was all Chelsea in the final, thrilling moments – but it was somehow still the visitors who walked away with all the spoils.

Lauren James hopes Chelsea can “achieve good things” in outgoing manager Emma Hayes’ final season in charge of the club.

Hayes announced her decision to step down in November and will become the head coach of the United States Women’s national team at the end of the campaign.

Her departure marks the end of a 12-year reign at Chelsea where she has won six Women’s Super League titles, five FA Cups and two League Cups.

James has worked with Hayes since her arrival at the club in 2021 aged 19 and she has since gone on to impress, recently earning the Barclays Player of the Month award in January after scoring five goals in two games.

“It’s good working with Emma, our relationship is close as everyone can probably imagine,” James told the PA news agency.

“I think highly of her and hopefully we can achieve good things this year together.

“In the moment I was disappointed and it hits you, but that’s the relationship we have. It’s football and people move on, I’ll just have to focus on Chelsea.”

James’ goalscoring feats last month helped Chelsea cement their spot at the summit of the WSL, where they sit three points clear of second-placed Manchester City ahead of a huge top-of-the-table clash on Friday night.

The 22-year-old England forward scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 win against former club Manchester United before bagging a brace in the 3-0 victory against Brighton.

James is aiming to continue her form throughout the rest of the season, which sees her in the running for the WSL Golden Boot after scoring 12 goals in as many league games.

She said: “It was a special feeling to receive (the Player of the Month award), I got five goals in two games, so it wasn’t that bad of a month! Hopefully I can just continue that form throughout the season.”

As well as striving for a fifth successive league title, Chelsea remain in the hunt for trophies in three other competitions in a jam-packed schedule next month.

March 3 sees them take on Manchester City in the Continental Tyres League Cup before facing Everton in the FA Cup quarter-finals three days later and they then play Ajax in the Champions League quarter-finals.

The Champions League is arguably Chelsea’s more coveted prize and is the one major trophy missing from their impressive collection.

They came close in 2021 after finishing as runners-up following a 4-0 defeat to Barcelona in the final and James admits getting far in the competition is the aim.

“I think it would be amazing, it’s something that everyone wants and dreams of,” she said.

“It’s something this club have been working towards for a while now. Hopefully on Emma’s final year we can hopefully get that far.

“I think (the Champions League) is good experience, the games have been a bit quicker because you’re playing against different opponents from different countries with different styles of play.”

Chelsea broke the Women’s Super League transfer record even as their men’s team sat out the January window.

While Premier League spending was down across the board to a combined £100m over the month, compared to last year’s record £815m as estimated by finance company Deloitte, an increasingly active WSL market peaked with the Blues’ move for Colombia forward Mayra Ramirez.

An initial 450,000 euros (£384,000), as stated by selling club Levante, is the English top flight’s highest ever fee – with add-ons worth 50,000 euros (£42,600) making it a potential world record in the women’s game.

Ramirez was recruited to cover for Sam Kerr’s expected season-long ACL absence while Manchester City replaced the similarly injured Jill Roord with Aston Villa’s Laura Blindkilde Brown.

With WSL sides increasingly following the lead of the men’s game in turning to the transfer market in response to injuries, Calum Ross, assistant director in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, told the PA news agency: “Player trading is a key part of any club’s business model, whether that’s in the women’s game or the men’s game.

“Obviously at the moment the values that we’re looking at are a lot more modest in the women’s game but we’d expect to see that growing in line with revenue.

“They’re all positive changes for the women’s game and it’s exciting to see that, and hopefully it does deliver the growth that it really deserves and is capable of.”

After lavish spending in recent windows, Chelsea were one of five men’s Premier League sides not to make a single January addition along with Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United.

The slowdown has been attributed to the threat of sanctions under the league’s profit and sustainability rules, with the Toffees already docked 10 points this season – though spending over the full season still hit £2.4bn, second only to last season’s £2.7bn.

Ross said: “I think compliance with financial regulations is a key part of it.

“We’ve obviously seen the Premier League’s response to breaches of their regulations, which is heightening clubs’ awareness to comply, and it’s the first year of UEFA’s new squad cost rules for clubs participating in UEFA competitions.

“There’s other reasons as well. In the summer we saw transfers like (Jude) Bellingham, (Declan) Rice, (Harry) Kane, which then create that domino effect across the market. We’re probably seeing a moment to pause and reset after they’ve done a lot of that business in the summer.”

Only £30m was spent on deadline day on permanent moves into the Premier League, the majority of that money heading into the Sky Bet Championship as Crystal Palace signed Adam Wharton from Blackburn and Aston Villa brought in Middlesbrough’s Morgan Rogers. Radu Dragusin’s move to Tottenham for a reported £26.7m on January 11 remained the biggest of the month.

For the first time since the Chinese Super League boom of 2019, the Premier League was not the biggest global spender as Ligue 1 clubs in France splashed out 190m euros (£162m) and Brazil’s Serie A over £123m.

The Saudi Pro League was not in that bracket, spending barely £20m after its headline-making summer splurge had echoed that previously seen in China.

Jordan Henderson returned to Europe with Ajax after six months at Al-Ettifaq and other high-profile signings expressed discontent, but Ross said: “I don’t think the bubble’s starting to burst. I think it’s a similar story (to the Premier League) – they’ve invested heavily in the summer and there’s an opportunity in this window to reflect and reset.

“I certainly expect to see them back in the market in the summer, whether that’s to the same levels that we saw this summer is to be seen. It does seem there are strong business plans behind the Saudi Pro League but there obviously is a need for them to prioritise financial sustainability over the long term.”

Chelsea advanced to the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a game to spare after an own-goal from Real Madrid goalkeeper Mylene Chavas handed them a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge.

Emma Hayes’ side looked to be facing the awkward prospect of requiring a result next week away at Paris FC when Real substitute Athenea del Castillo tapped in on the rebound, reacting quickest after goalkeeper Hannah Hampson had beaten out Hayley Raso’s effort with 20 minutes to play.

A penalty earlier in the second half from Guro Reiten had seemingly put Chelsea en route to the win they required.

But after the visitors had hit back it fell to Erin Cuthbert, wearing the armband with Millie Bright still absent, to lead by example, sending over a cross that bounced in off the unfortunate Real goalkeeper.

Chelsea’s first chance fell to the left foot of Cuthbert, drilled low against the legs of Chavas after Fran Kirby had found her with a deft through ball.

Jess Carter drilled a searching pass to the left flank that was helped on by Niamh Charles, rampaging forward from full-back, into the path of Reiten. She hit an audacious, dipping effort that was just clawed out from underneath the crossbar.

Real threatened through Colombia international Linda Caicedo, tricking her way in behind Kadeisha Buchanan and looking to poke it beyond Hampton from a devilish angle. The goalkeeper, making her Champions League debut, instinctively threw up a strong right hand and beat the ball away.

Reiten set up Cuthbert, who swung and missed her kick with the goal gaping, before the Scotland international and stand-in captain crossed to the near post to present Mia Fishel with seemingly an easy finish, but she could only guide it wide.

Hayes sent on Lauren James, fresh from her weekend hat-trick, at the break as her side searched for the goal that would seal a last-eight berth, whilst the precocious 18-year-old Caicedo, injured during the first half, was withdrawn by Real boss Alberto Toni.

Anything less than a win and qualification for Chelsea would go to the final matchday, a result likely needed away at impressive Champions League debutants Paris, twice conquerors of Real in this season’s competition.

The goal to radically alter that equation arrived just past the hour. Melanie Leupolz’s pass split Real’s defence and ran through to Cuthbert, arch-tormentor of her opposite number Kenti Robles.

The full-back’s challenge was a mess, scything Cuthbert to the ground. From the spot, Reiten put one Chelsea foot in the quarter-finals.

James looked to seal it with a goal all of her own making, cutting in from the right and standing up two defenders before racing beyond them and clipping a shot towards the near post that was brilliantly deflected away by Chavas.

Then all of a sudden, Chelsea switched off. There seemed little on for Real when the ball was pinged up to Raso, high up on the right of the box but with Charles in her path and only Athenea to aim for.

Instead she looked to do it herself, blasting low at goal, her shot beaten out by Hampson but into the path of the substitute who tapped home.

Fortune smiled on Hayes’ team almost at once, their lead restored within a minute when Chavas lost concentration at the critical moment and fumbled Cuthbert’s cross over her own line.

Lauren James hit a hat-trick as Chelsea defeated Manchester United 3-1 at Stamford Bridge to regain their three-point advantage at the top of the Women’s Super League.

Emma Hayes’ reigning champions, without the services of Australia striker Sam Kerr for the rest of the season due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury, took the lead in the fifth minute when James fired past England team-mate Mary Earps.

Nathalie Bjorn, making her first WSL start for Chelsea since signing from Everton this month, produced a lovely ball over the top for James to double the hosts’ advantage with a neat low finish in the 23rd minute.

Hayley Ladd pulled one back just before half-time to give Marc Skinner’s visitors hope, but – to the delight of the majority of the 20,473 crowd – James made the points safe in the 85th minute when she broke clear one on one with Earps and made no mistake.

Mary Fowler One-time WSL champions City return to action from the competition's winter break on Sunday, when they take on Liverpool.

As it stands, City are second, three points behind leaders Chelsea and level on points with third-place Arsenal, with Manchester United and Liverpool four points behind.

With such a tight title race, the pressure is well and truly on, but City's Fowler, who scored in a 4-0 FA Cup win over Durham last week, believes that helps keep her team-mates on their toes.

Fowler told Stats Perform: "I think it's really exciting actually. It just makes us all so much more competitive and I think you can see it out on the training field, everyone just wants to win so much.

"I think sometimes when you're in that third place, fourth place position, you'll want it but you're like, 'Damn it, we're not going to come first'.

"So I think being in such a close battle at the top, it just keeps everyone on their toes and at the top of their game.

"Obviously, there's a bit of pressure that comes with that, but we've earned the right to be up there and try and contest to win the title."

Jill Roord, Lauren Hemp and England star Chloe Kelly are among the superstar names in City's squad, and Fowler sees those big names as another source of motivation.

"It helps greatly," the 20-year-old said.

"I think the competition that we have within the squad is great and it's lifted training a lot and having players who are all performing at the top of their game, it's great to watch.

"I think they've all done so well, we've all done so well to get to this point and I think everyone appreciates that and then kind of puts it aside because now it's the second half [of the season].

"If everyone stays in form from what we had first half, I think we'll do well."

City striker Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw is the leading scorer in the WSL, with nine goals from as many games.

"She's been amazing," Fowler said of Shaw. "I think you get the ball to Bunny, you know it's going to go on the back of the net.

"We're super lucky to have her in the team and it's amazing getting to work with her and to watch her play. It's a big weapon that we have, to be able to have Bunny in the box and have her getting so many goals, every game."

While Shaw spearheads City's attack, their title rivals Chelsea will be without Sam Kerr – Fowler's Australia team-mate – for the rest of the season, after the 30-year-old suffered a serious knee injury.

"I sent her a message, I think she's probably got a lot on her plate at the moment," Fowler said. "I think the way that people see her reacting is a testament to her character.

"She's a very resilient kind of person. It was terrible to hear that news and I feel bad for her. So hopefully it's a quick recovery for her. I feel for her."

Emma Hayes has refused to speculate over the future of injured striker Sam Kerr, whose Chelsea contract expires this summer.

Kerr underwent surgery on Thursday on an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury suffered during what boss Hayes described as an “innocuous” turning and shooting exercise during the Blues’ warm-weather training in Morocco.

The lengthy recovery process all but guarantees the Australia captain will miss the remainder of both the Women’s Super League and Champions League campaigns, the latter Hayes’ last chance to win that elusive trophy before she parts ways with Chelsea to begin her new role as head coach of the United States women’s national team.

Asked about Kerr’s contract and concerns the forward might have played her final game for Chelsea, Hayes said: “With the announcement (of Kerr’s injury) the focus for Sam right now is on rehab.

“I’m sure when the time is right to discuss her future that will come from Sam and the club, but Sam loves Chelsea and Chelsea loves Sam, so I think that’s the most important thing to say on that front.”

England and Chelsea midfielder Fran Kirby, 30, is also out of contract this summer and earlier this week claimed in an interview with the BBC that there had been no conversations with the club about her future.

Kirby – who has experienced a number of setbacks of her own, including the knee issue that ruled her out of last summer’s World Cup and a spell out with pericarditis – expressed hope that she could continue playing top-flight football after her current deal expires.

Hayes said: “I think when it comes to Fran, it’s not unusual for players to go into the last six months of their contract. Fran knows that our goal with her is to keep her on the pitch for 100 per cent of the season, not less than 50 per cent.

“She understands that and sometimes she is a bit impatient. She wants to do everything at once but we know what a talent she is, we know what we can expect from Fran, and I’m sure, again, when the club and the player and all of the people involved with that have something to announce on that front, they will.

“But I don’t think anybody should be too panicked just because of the timelines. We have worked over 11 years to put in place a structure to make sure we’re always planning and preparing, and I think Chelsea and its future are still in a very, very good place.”

Meanwhile, there was good news about Catarina Macario, the 24-year-old USA forward who signed with the Blues in July but has yet to make an appearance for Chelsea as she endured her own prolonged recovery from an ACL injury.

Macario took a “progressive” part in the team’s sessions in Morocco and Hayes added: “I think this first part over the next couple of weeks will be the reintroduction and I think Chelsea fans can expect to see her quite soon.”

The Women's Super League and Chelsea Women will be beneficiaries of the legacy Emma Hayes leaves behind when she heads for a new challenge in the United States.

That was the message from Chloe Kelly, Nikita Parris and Rachel Brown-Finnis as the trio looked ahead to Chelsea boss Hayes leaving Stamford Bridge for the USA Women's head coach role.

Hayes is regarded by many in women's football as one of the most influential people in the game and has been in charge of the London club since 2012.

Hayes' departure date is confirmed for May, when she travels to the USA to take over after their underwhelming 2023 Women's World Cup campaign, and Kelly was quick to credit the Chelsea boss for her work with the Blues.

Speaking at the launch of the first ever Panini Barclays Women's Super League sticker collection at the National Football Museum, Kelly said: "I think throughout the years she's been so consistent at Chelsea and playing great football, I think it's exciting for her.

"It's a new chapter of her career and I wish her all the best in that, but of course it's a loss to the WSL, it's the top manager that we're losing, but hopefully she goes and achieves great things.

Hayes has led Chelsea to six WSL titles, five Women’s FA Cups, two Continental Cups, the Spring Series, a Community Shield victory and a Champions League final.

Parris echoed England team-mate Kelly's sentiments, adding: "She has proven over many years how much of a fantastic coach she is and she will be a massive loss to the league.

"Chelsea winning the WSL back to back to back, that's some feat and she deserves all the credit that she gets.

"I wish her all the best in the future, especially when she's not playing against England but I wish her the best for the US."

Hayes' new role will make her the world's highest‑paid female coach, although there will be heavy expectations placed upon her when she crosses the Atlantic.

Hayes' first major tournament as USA boss will be the Olympics next year in Paris, with Twila Kilgore acting as interim head coach until May, becoming her assistant when she arrives.

Brown-Finnis believes the legacy Hayes will leave in the WSL and at Chelsea will be clear for all to see, saying women's football will benefit from her influence going forward.

"Emma Hayes is arguably, in the 12 years she's been at Chelsea, the biggest proprietor of change," Brown-Finnis said at the same event as Parris and Kelly.

"That's in her coaching methods, in the success that she's bred, the infrastructure that she's implemented at the club, the conversations that she's had with the hierarchy at Chelsea.

"She has made demands to ensure that change happens from a resources point of view, in the way that people think about women's football at the club and beyond.

"They are now the blueprint that other WSL clubs, not just WSL clubs, but domestic clubs all around the world are looking at... how they conduct themselves, how they interact, how they work as one body and that for me has been the biggest and most solid change.

"In years gone by, a club's gone down from the Premier League and the first thing to have been axed has been the women's club. That is history, thankfully.

"Emma Hayes has been and still is moving things forward, happy to stand toe-to-toe in arguments and debates around football, a subject that she knows as well as any professional coach in the game, male or female, and she's a wonderful ambassador and a wonderful pioneer.

"She'll be a big loss to the Women's Super League, but I hope eventually she'll be back in England, possibly leading England to World Cup glory."

Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis has described online racist abuse aimed at Chelsea's Lauren James as "disgusting", calling for action to be taken against the perpetrators.

Speaking at the launch of the first ever Panini Barclays Women's Super League sticker collection at the National Football Museum, Brown-Finnis was joined by current Lionesses forward Chloe Kelly, who pledged to support her international team-mate after she was abused on social media.

James was subjected to racist comments online after appearing to stamp on Lia Walti's foot during Chelsea's 4-1 Women's Super League defeat against Arsenal last week.

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes subsequently said James was "not in a good place" and claimed "racial profiling" by people working in football was partly to blame for the abuse.  

Brown-Finnis, who won 82 caps for England between 1997 and 2013 before moving into punditry, believes more must be done to hold those who post online abuse to account.

"Of course, it's not coming from within. People can say what they want on social media and there seems to be little ownership of comments, there seems to be no action taken against people who put what they want on social media," she said.

"It's awful, it's hurtful, it's not representative of what the majority of people think of women, of athletes, of people of colour, of any sort of minority group, and it's disgusting. 

"It's something that I would not want my children to see, would want to relate to, would want any part of, so with the fact that it's highlighted, hopefully something can be done about it."

James was also racially abused online while playing for Manchester United in 2021, while a recent FIFA study revealed one in five players at this year's Women's World Cup were subjected to "discriminatory, abusive or threatening messaging" during the tournament.

Kelly – who played alongside James in Australia and New Zealand as Sarina Wiegman's team finished as runners-up to Spain – said the forward's team-mates would now rally around her.

"I haven't seen anything about it, but it's really disappointing to hear," Kelly said of the abuse James has received.

"She's a great young talent, a great young English talent who is doing so well at the minute, but of course, there's so much negativity. I think it's always disappointing with such a talent like LJ. 

"Hopefully she's able to block that out and move forward. Everyone around her will definitely support her in this time because she's an unbelievable player and deserves a lot of support."

James was on target as Chelsea returned to winning ways in the Women's Super League on Sunday, netting the opener in a 3-0 victory over Bristol City.

Chelsea bounced back from their thrashing by Arsenal to beat Bristol City 3-0 at Ashton Gate and ensure they went into the winter break three points clear at the top of the Women’s Super League.

The Blues went down 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium a week ago, but Lauren James’ superb effort in the 17th minute set them on their way on Sunday before Erin Cuthbert scored with a volley and Sam Kerr added a header.

The visitors also had Niamh Charles sent off in stoppage time as they took advantage of Arsenal’s shock defeat to Tottenham on Saturday to open up a gap at the top.

Manchester City moved ahead of the Gunners into second place on goal difference after Bunny Shaw’s hat-trick earned a 4-1 win against Everton.

Shaw quickly made amends for having a penalty saved when she put City in front in the ninth minute and she added a second before Jill Roord extended the lead.

Aurora Galli pulled one back with an incredible strike in the second half, but Shaw’s header completed her treble and sealed a fourth straight league win for City.

Liverpool earned their first WSL victory over Manchester United after coming from behind to win 2-1 at Leigh Sports Village.

Ella Toone opened the scoring for the hosts just three minutes in, but the Reds levelled through Millie Turner’s own goal.

Captain Taylor Hinds then found the winner in the 68th minute as Liverpool moved level on points with fourth-placed United.

Honoka Hayashi’s stoppage-time equaliser salvaged a point for West Ham in a dramatic 1-1 draw with Leicester at the King Power Stadium.

The Hammers were left to rue their missed opportunities when Lena Petermann put the Foxes ahead in the 68th minute.

A poor afternoon got worse for West Ham when captain Hawa Cissoko was sent off in added time, but Hayashi struck in the eighth minute of time added on to lift the visitors off the foot of the table.

Arsenal moved level on points with Chelsea at the top of the Women’s Super League with a 4-1 rout of the champions in front of a league-record crowd of 59,042 at the Emirates Stadium.

Alessia Russo scored twice with Amanda Ilestedt also on the scoresheet after Johanna Rytting Kaneryd had cancelled out Beth Mead’s opener.

Mead capped a swift counter-attack eight minutes in, but Chelsea needed only five minutes to level through Rytting Kaneryd who beat Manuela Zinsberger at her near post with a shot from distance.

The game was all but decided with two goals in three minutes before half-time. Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger came off her line but got nowhere near Steph Catley’s corner as Ilestedt headed into the empty net for her first WSL goal, and Russo then finished off another counter-attack.

The fourth came in the 72nd minute. Berger came out to challenge Russo and, although Jess Carter won the ball and knocked it away from the Arsenal forward, the referee signalled a penalty as Russo tumbled over Berger, who shook her head in disbelief before being beaten from the spot.

The result puts Arsenal on 22 points, second to Chelsea on goal difference, with Manchester City three points back in third.

In Sunday’s late kick-off, Manchester City thrashed Tottenham 7-0 with Khadija Shaw scoring a first-half hat-trick before Laura Coombs came off the bench to net a late double.

City built on a fast start as Shaw headed home a 23rd-minute opener before two more well-taken goals in the space of six minutes ripped Spurs apart as their eight-match unbeaten run was left in tatters.

Any hopes of a comeback were dashed at the start of the second half when the impressive Lauren Hemp curled in a fourth.

Jill Roord’s header and a late brace from substitute Coombs completed a comprehensive win which sees City consolidate third place going into the international break.

Beth Mead scored twice as Arsenal thumped struggling West Ham 3-0 at Meadow Park in the Women’s Super League.

It did not take long for Arsenal to open the scoring as Frida Maanum put the hosts 1-0 up just two minutes in and Mead got her first since returning from injury in the 18th minute before she tapped in from six yards to make it 3-0 just before the break.

Jonas Eidevall’s team sit in second position and continue to pile pressure on league leaders Chelsea.

Lauren James scored twice as the Blues stretched their winning run to six games in the league with a 5-2 victory over Leicester.

Chelsea scored twice in the first five minutes through James and a Courtney Nevin own goal and added a third just before the break through Sam Kerr, just after Jutta Rantala had brought Leicester back into the game.

Sam Tierney netted in the 44th minute to make it 3-2 but Chelsea regained their two-goal cushion when James dinked over the keeper from close range and Aggie Beever-Jones sealed the points late on for Emma Hayes’ side.

 

Second-half goals from Hinata Miyazawa and Nikita Parris ensured that Manchester United returned to winning ways in the WSL after their derby loss to Manchester City last weekend with a 2-0 victory at rock-bottom Bristol City.

United were denied on several occasions in the first period by inspired City goalkeeper Olivia Clark, who kept out Parris, Leah Galton and Millie Turner.

Marc Skinner’s side broke the deadlock five minutes after the break through Japanese international Miyazawa before Parris added a second as United clinched an away win.

Liverpool picked up their first win in three league matches with a convincing 4-0 triumph over Brighton.

The Reds carried a 2-0 lead into the break thanks to strikes from Gemma Bonner and Shanice van de Sanden and Ceri Holland nodded in from close range in the second half before Sophie Roman Haug added the gloss on a good afternoon for the hosts.

Also on Sunday, Everton leapfrogged Aston Villa in the table after Nathalie Bjorn’s penalty handed them a 2-1 win at Villa Park.

Anna Patten’s own goal gave Everton the lead but they were instantly pegged back when Rachel Daly side-footed home from close range.

The Toffees’ winner came with 15 minutes left when Kirsty Hanson brought Heather Payne down inside the area. Bjorn stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way to hand Everton a first victory in five matches.

Beth Mead scored twice as Arsenal thumped struggling West Ham 3-0 at Meadow Park in the Women’s Super League.

It did not take long for Arsenal to open the scoring as Frida Maanum put the hosts 1-0 up just two minutes in and Mead got her first since returning from injury in the 18th minute before she tapped in from six yards to make it 3-0 just before the break.

Jonas Eidevall’s team sit in second position and continue to pile pressure on league leaders Chelsea.

Lauren James scored twice as the Blues stretched their winning run to six games in the league with a 5-2 win over Leicester.

Chelsea scored twice in the first five minutes through James and a Courtney Nevin own goal and added a third just before the break through Sam Kerr, just after Jutta Rantala had brought Leicester back into the game.

Sam Tierney netted in the 44th minute to make it 3-2 but Chelsea regained their two-goal cushion when James dinked over the keeper from close range and Aggie Beever-Jones sealed the points late on for Emma Hayes’ side.

Second half goals from Hinata Miyazawa and Nikita Parris ensured that Manchester United returned to winning ways after their derby loss to Manchester City with a 2-0 win over rock bottom Bristol City.

United were denied on several occasions in the first period by inspired City goalkeeper Olivia Clark, who kept out Parris, Leah Galton and Millie Turner.

Marc Skinner’s side broke the deadlock five minutes after the break through Japanese international Miyazawa before Parris added a second as United clinched an away win.

Liverpool picked up their first win in three league matches with a convincing 4-0 win over Brighton.

The Reds carried a 2-0 lead into the break thanks to strikes from Gemma Bonner and Shanice van de Sanden and Ceri Holland nodded in from close range in the second half before Sophie Roman Haug added the gloss on a good afternoon for the hosts.

Emma Hayes praised “80 per cent fit” Sam Kerr after her hat-trick helped Chelsea to a 4-1 Champions League win against Paris FC at Stamford Bridge.

Kerr has been easing back to fitness after missing most of the World Cup with injury and has made a modest start to the Women’s Super League season with only two goals so far.

But against Paris she ensured her side’s European campaign began in earnest following last week’s controversial draw with Real Madrid, though the result had looked in doubt when the visitors levelled through Thea Greboval’s header before half-time.

That cancelled out Kerr’s opener which she had prodded in on the half-hour mark after getting between goalkeeper and defender to turn home Lauren James’s superb right-footed cross.

She added quick-fire goals early in the second period to put down Paris’ resistance, the first a far-post finish from Johanna Rytting Kaneryd’s low ball in before an effort that looped over the head of goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie.

Sophie Ingle evaded her marker to roll the ball into the corner in stoppage time to add gloss to the scoreline.

And afterwards Hayes revealed she had predicted pre-match that Kerr would finally rediscover her scoring touch against the French side.

“I fancied her to score a hat-trick tonight,” said Hayes. “I said it in the dressing room before the game. She doesn’t get credit for all the other little bits she does.

“By her standards she’s not on top, top (fitness) yet, but I don’t know anyone who puts the ball away like she does. She’s so alert and decisive with her movement. Brilliant centre-forward play.

“If that’s her at 80 per cent, I’ll take that. That’s not bad. I can’t wait for the hundred per cent to come.”

Hayes opted to start with Fran Kirby on the bench with the forward also in the early stages of a return from injury having missed most of last season.

She emerged at the start of the second half to play a crucial role in restoring Chelsea’s lead, playing in Rytting Kaneryd down the right who crossed for Kerr to slide in her second.

“I rate Paris,” said Hayes. “I felt there’s a lot of work you have to do over 90 minutes that might have been too much for Fran. It’s so important we keep her healthy for England and Chelsea.

“Fran wants to play in every moment but I thought that was the perfect cameo for her. The team needs it.

“We were sloppy in the first half. I think the games accumulated caught up on us. People don’t realise how hard it is to keep going.”

Paris coach Sandrine Soubeyrand reflected on a brave performance from her team against a side that many fancy for the Champions League crown.

“I think maybe we lacked a bit of efficiency and clinical nature in front of goal,” she said. “I wanted the players to come and give an account of themselves, not so much thinking about the score.

“We wanted to play, not sit back, and I think we did that. We had opportunities. I think we could have done better on one of the goals (conceded), but we go away with no regrets.”

Chelsea eased to a comfortable 4-1 win against Paris FC as Sam Kerr’s hat-trick helped them to a first Champions League victory of the season.

The result had looked in doubt at half-time after the visitors had stunned Emma Hayes’ side with an equaliser from defender Thea Greboval’s header, wiping out the lead given to last year’s semi-finalists when Kerr turned in Lauren James’ cross.

But two goals early in the second period settled Chelsea nerves and ensured there would be no upset from the tournament debutants at Stamford Bridge. Kerr grabbed her second and third in the space of seven minutes before substitute Sophie Ingle capped the night off in stoppage time to ensure three points after last week’s controversial draw away to Real Madrid.

Chelsea started unusually subdued and allowed Paris to have the better of the first 20 minutes, though neither side mustered much in the way of chances.

The first opening fell to James and it came from a mistake by Greboval at the back for Paris. The defender played a casual, aimless pass out from the edge of the box straight to the feet of Erin Cuthbert, whose quick ball forward was dummied by Kerr and allowed to run on to James.

With the goal at her mercy, Chelsea’s hat-trick hero last time out against Liverpool opened up her right foot and skewed horribly wide of the post.

Yet the England winger soon made amends. On the half-hour mark the ball was worked to her wide on the left by Jess Carter, and with a deft step-over to fox her marker she carried it inside and delivered a curling cross that pitched perfectly between goalkeeper and defender for Kerr to lunge in and prod her side in front.

Johanna Rytting Kaneryd spurned a golden chance to double the lead when she nipped in behind and was denied brilliantly at close range by Chiamaka Nnadozie in the visitors’ goal.

Within minutes Chelsea’s advantage was wiped out and the equaliser was simply worked. Gaetane Thiney’s corner was swept over from the right for Paris, and there rising highest above the grounded Cuthbert from 12 yards was Greboval, her header looping into the air and over the head of Carter whose goalline intervention succeeded only in helping the ball into the roof of the net.

Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger saved her team in the first minute of the second half, flying out at the feet of Mathilde Bourdieu after she had stepped inside Kadeisha Buchanan to make space to shoot.

It turned out to be the moment on which the game turned. Within two minutes, Chelsea’s lead was restored and it was substitute Fran Kirby who began the move.

Picking up the ball wide on the right, she looked up and fed the charging Rytting Kaneryd bursting forward from midfield. Her low cross into the six-yard box evaded the defender by a millimetre, and there stealing in with a poacher’s finish was Kerr to make it 2-1.

Chelsea were out of sight when Kerr completed her hat-trick, Berger’s long, searching kick requiring only two touches from the Australian before she hoisted the ball high over Nnadozie, who may have misjudged its flight as she sought to paw it out from underneath the crossbar.

From there, Paris competed gamely and might have pulled one back late on had Berger not been alert to flip a high shot over the bar with her fingertips.

But Chelsea’s superiority showed. With victory assured, Ingle slid the ball home unmarked from a corner at the death as their bid to send departing boss Hayes out with a Champions League medal began in earnest.

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