Chelsea 5-1 Liverpool: Hat-trick hero James strengthens Chelsea's WSL grip
(Photo by Richard Heathcote - Getty Images)

As Chelsea hunt a fifth successive Women's Super League title, four Lauren James goal involvements at Stamford Bridge helped the Blues to extend their lead at the summit to six points on Saturday afternoon.

The performance was worthy of sending an ominous warning sign to the chasing pack as, despite Liverpool levelling the game shortly after the opener, Emma Hayes' side ran away with all three points in the second half.

Lauren James opened the scoring after 10 minutes, with Jess Carter's own goal following to represent a frantic start.

But after James' cross met the header of Aggie Beever-Jones to retake the lead in the 24th minute, Chelsea refused to rest on their laurels.

Upon the restart for the second period, James scored twice to complete a memorable hat-trick, and Sjoeke Nusken wrapped up a perfect day at Stamford Bridge with a fifth goal in the 78th minute.

In her final season in Chelsea's control room, Hayes ensured her side maintained their 100% start to the league campaign after midweek controversy in Madrid, while Liverpool succumbed to their first away defeat this term.

  • Story of the game

In their first game at Stamford Bridge since Emma Hayes announced her departure at the end of the season, Chelsea made six changes from the side that began the 2-2 Champions League draw against Real Madrid in Spain on Wednesday.

Zecira Musovic, Maren Mjelde, Eve Perisset, Lauren James and Agnes Beever-Jones came in, and Sophie Ingle became the WSL's highest-ever appearance-maker in her 184th game.

Meanwhile, Liverpool made two changes from their last WSL outing, with Missy Bo Kearns remaining on the bench; Emma Koivisto and Shanice van de Sanden replaced Mia Enderby and Melissa Lawley, who were among the substitutes.

In the opening minutes of the fixture, Chelsea dominated the ball and created clear-cut opportunities to shake off any doubt among the home crowd that three games in six days would affect Hayes' league leaders.

From a corner, Lauren James came close to breaking the deadlock when her curling effort was palmed away by Rachael Laws in the fourth minute. With danger not cleared, took aim from the edge of the box, narrowly deflecting over from Jenna Clark's block.

But while the Reds weathered the first 10 minutes well, their hard work to keep a fast-paced Chelsea attack away from goal came undone when James found space on the left to slot the ball beyond laws from close range.

Needing a fast response, Liverpool swiftly found one just two minutes later.

A frenetic start at Stamford Bridge continued to hurtle on with Shanice van de Sanden pulling the ball back from the touchline, meeting the backtracking Jess Carter, who tumbled the ball into her own net.

The level playing field lasted 10 minutes once again when James worked the ball down the left flank with Sam Kerr before a pinpoint cross to the back post was met by Beaver-Jones.

After scoring as a substitute in her previous three games, the 20-year-old made it four from four in the 24th minute.

The goal seemed to knock the wind out of the sails of an afternoon that started with plenty of thrills and spills.

With five minutes of the half left, Liverpool nearly brought the game level for a second time when Marie Hobinger's corner was latched onto from the edge of the area.

But it was at the other end where Matt Beard's side profited more. Keeping Sam Kerr quiet for 45 minutes is no easy feat for anyone, but the Reds' defence proved well-versed in shutting attacks out, despite conceding twice.

Second half

Only Man City and Chelsea have conceded fewer goals than Liverpool, and the second-half introduction for Missy Bo Kearns would surely amount to a poised second period.

The first attack upon the restart saw Kerr unleashed down the right, but to no avail when the Reds got back in numbers.

At the other end, van de Sanden looked to get her second of the game, but her shot flung well wide from outside of the box.

Instead, in the 55th minute, Lauren James doubled her tally when she rifled the ball into the bottom right corner following strong hold-up play from Kerr.

The English winger played her part in all three Chelsea goals up until the hour-mark, scoring twice and assisting the other.

Having cemented a two-goal cushion, Chelsea were eager to settle the score, refusing to rest on their laurels. And after a penalty shout was waved away in front of the small congregation of Liverpool fans, James sealed a hat-trick in the turnover of possession.

She had run rampant all game and secured victory when she smashed Johanna Rytting Kaneryd's pullback into the top right corner.

Liverpool, rejecting the idea that the game was wrapped up, responded well again by forcing a goalline clearance upon a quick restart, but Chelsea held on and found a fifth goal instead.

Rytting Kanerd got her second assist from the bench as her driven pass across the face of the goal was tapped in by Sjoeke Nusken.

The goal put Chelsea's 19th consecutive home victory beyond doubt, while Liverpool will feel the scoreline wasn't a fair reflection of a defiant performance that got overshadowed by a rampant Blues attack.