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Chelsea Women vs Arsenal Women. Women's Super League.

Stamford BridgeAttendance32,970.

Chelsea Women 3

  • L James (15th minute)
  • S Nusken (21st minute, 32nd minute)

Arsenal Women 1

  • C Macario (86th minute own goal)

Chelsea Women 3-1 Arsenal Women: Emma Hayes' side take control of WSL title destiny with sensational Stamford Bridge display

Report and free match highlights as Chelsea scored three first-half goals to stun title rivals Arsenal into submission; Lauren James opened the scoring before Sjoeke Nusken scored twice; the Blues go three clear at the top ahead of Man City's meeting with Brighton on Sunday

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Highlights from the Women's Super League match between Chelsea and Arsenal.

Chelsea took command of the Women's Super League title race with a blistering 3-1 win over London rivals Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, to all but end the Gunners' faint hopes of WSL glory this season.

The Blues, now six points clear of Jonas Eidevall's side, tore their visitors apart with a sensational first-half showing, doing to Arsenal exactly what the Gunners did to them in the reverse fixture at Emirates Stadium.

Emma Hayes' side were on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline at the break before going on to lose 4-1 back in December, but enacted the perfect revenge mission at their west London home, as Lauren James' opener was supplemented by two Sjoeke Nusken strikes before the halfway point.

An uncharacteristically difficult night for Arsenal was made worse by the fact that, before a ball was even kicked, referee Rebecca Welch had identified a clash of playing socks, and the visitors were controversially forced into wearing replacements from the Chelsea megastore - a mishap that delayed kick off by 30 minutes.

Lauren James opened the scoring for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge
Image: Lauren James opened the scoring for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Arsenal, worn down by the relentlessness of Chelsea's intensity, found brief comfort in a consolation goal when Kim Little's strike was deflected into her own goal by substitute Catarina Macario, but the damage had long been done on a night where elimination from this year's title race was effectively confirmed.

Chelsea will now chase for top honours in a head-to-head battle with second-placed Manchester City, who play Brighton on Sunday, with the chance to draw level on 40 points at the summit.

Chelsea team news

Emma Hayes made six changes to the side that earned a 1-0 win over Everton to set up an FA Cup semi-final tie with Manchester United.

Starlet Lauren James was returned to the starting XI, alongside Hannah Hampton, Guro Reiten, Melanie Leupolz, Niamh Charles and Kadeisha Buchanan.

The Chelsea goals...

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Lauren James fires Chelsea into a 1-0 lead as her powerful shot proves too hot to handle for Arsenal's Manuela Zinsberger.

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Sjoeke Nusken was on hand to steer in Erin Cuthbert's shot as Chelsea double their lead over Arsenal in a crucial title clash.

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Sjoeke Nüsken doubled her and Chelsea's advantage as she deflected in Johanna Rytting Kaneryd's effort to give the Blues a commanding 3-0 lead over title rivals Arsenal.

How Chelsea outclassed below-par Gunners

Chelsea vs Arsenal is a staple of the WSL - the most played fixture in the league's history.

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Until Friday night, the balance was delicately poised at 10 wins apiece, but the Blues now boast a better record, and a far better chance of successfully defending their WSL crown as a result.

Sjoeke Nusken's goal put Chelsea in complete control midway through the first half
Image: Sjoeke Nusken's goal put Chelsea in complete control midway through the first half

The reigning champions avenged their reverse defeat at the hands of Arsenal in consummate style, starting aggressively, and capitalising in the 15th minute when James unearthed the night's opener.

Guro Reiten found the England forward, who nearly missed the game because of illness, surging down the right, turning Steph Catley inside-out, before her powerful strike was parried clumsily by Manuela Zinsberger and finished by looping into the net.

Arsenal team news

Jonas Eidevall made three changes with Kim Little, Caitlin Foord and Victoria Pelova all restored.

Alessia Russo started from the bench with Stina Blackstenius preferred in attack.

Chelsea refused to sit back, instead continuing to reward their strongest-ever home crowd with a second goal six minutes after scoring their first.

A dangerous Reiten delivery was teed up for Erin Cuthbert, whose low drive from the edge of the box was deftly and cleverly diverted beyond Zinsberger by Nusken. The midfielder was adjudged by the assistant referee to be level with Leah Williamson when connecting with the ball, despite the defender's fierce remonstrations.

Chelsea fans ahead of their WSL meeting with Arsenal at Stamford Bridge
Image: Chelsea had nearly 33,000 inside Stamford Bridge - a record home crowd

If that finish was instinctive, Nusken knew much less about her second, as Chelsea impressively stretched their lead to three before the interval to effectively putting the game beyond Arsenal's reach.

Williamson's cross-field pass was cut out by a rampaging Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, who enjoyed an electric first half, and she motored towards goal before pulling the trigger, finding the net via the outside boot of an unaware Nusken.

The German midfielder's double put her on six league goals for the season, capping a fine individual and team display, which had all the hallmarks of a side intent on yet more WSL domination.

Hayes: 'Tremendous' Chelsea showed best face

Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes:

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Emma Hayes shares her thoughts on Chelsea's impressive 3-1 win over Arsenal, insisting the showing was the kind of performance her team are capable of.

"I wanted the performance, more interested in that than anything else. At the Emirates we let ourselves down with the basics. We started the game the better, aggressive, particularly with our first and second balls.

"We haven't got a striker, we're missing three No 9s, Lauren James had been sick all week and we asked her to do a job up top. She had a tremendous game.

"The whole team were absolutely tremendous. Eve Perriset, who has had a tough time, was outstanding. The better team won."

Eidevall: We played to Chelsea's strengths

Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall:

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Jonas Eidevall admits his Arsenal side weren't good enough during their 3-1 defeat to Chelsea as the Gunners lost more ground in the WSL title-race.

"One of the things I'm most disappointed with is our performance - how much we allowed Chelsea to play within our organisation. Their plan, when they're playing Lauren James as a No 9, is to get her playing with the ball. They're very good at that.

"We dealt with that very poorly especially in the first half. That's a big part of us not receiving the result we want.

"In the first half, we keep on turning over the ball and they have a lot of players facing forwards. They are very dangerous. Those opportunities, they take.

"I do think when you look back at the first half, they scored with all their opportunities. They're good at that, but it's not good enough from our side."

How do you solve a problem like Chelsea?

Chelsea have opened up a three point gap on nearest rivals Man City in WSL title race
Image: Chelsea have opened up a three point gap on nearest rivals Man City in WSL title race

Analysis from Sky Sports' Laura Hunter at Stamford Bridge:

If we didn't already know that Chelsea would be reticent to hand control of the title race over to rivals Arsenal, we do now. This was a statement display in front of a record crowd - one that shows just how impressively the Blues are navigating Emma Hayes' swansong season on and off the pitch.

Never before have Chelsea Women attracted a 33,000-strong crowd to Stamford Bridge. Never before has the squad, at such a crucial juncture in the campaign, been so severely depleted by injury and illness. Hayes' side played with no recognised No 9 and blew Arsenal away with an attacking ruthlessness so adept, it felt as if four strikers were on the pitch.

The display was epitomised by "maverick" Lauren James, who was the stand-in No 9, and drew compliments from her manager as well as plaudits from fans and Sky Sports pundits alike. This is her stage, and she owned it: Chelsea's first and second goals were testament to that. "Stamford Bridge is her playground," Hayes eulogised post-match.

Chelsea know how to navigate the business end of a chaotic season and this latest triumph was case in point. Only Man City have the power to stop them now - and, after tonight, even that feels impossibly hopeful.

What's next?

Live WSL

Chelsea are in Champions League quarter-final action on Tuesday as Emma Hayes' side go to Amsterdam to take on Ajax in the first leg; kick-off 5.45pm.

The Blues then return to WSL action on Sunday as they face another London derby with a trip to West Ham; kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports.

Live WSL

Arsenal, meanwhile, are back in WSL action on Sunday as they face Aston Villa at Villa Park; kick-off 6.45pm, live on Sky Sports.

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