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Chelsea sock it to Arsenal as Lauren James inspires WSL rout

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 15 Mar 2024

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Chelsea dominated Arsenal 3-1 in the Women’s Super League in a game which was delayed by 30 minutes due to a clash of socks.

The league leaders moved three points clear of Manchester City, who have the chance to respond against Brighton on Sunday, and six ahead of the Gunners.

The reigning champions avenged their 4-1 defeat at the hands of Arsenal at the Emirates in December through goals from Lauren James and Sjoeke Nusken’s brace.

The German midfielder’s double put her on six league goals for the season and substitute Catarina Macario’s own goal was mere consolation for the north Londoners.

The first whistle at Stamford Bridge was paused while Arsenal staff collected black socks from their opponents’ megastore, using blue tape to cover the Chelsea and Nike logos. Arsenal’s white Adidas socks, the same colour as Chelsea’s, had been deemed not fit for purpose by referee Rebecca Welch.

Once the delay was over the hosts started aggressively in front of a crowd of 32,970.

They fought for 50-50 challenges and the physical James bullied her marker as she was unleashed down the right before Erin Cuthbert was unable to convert her inch-perfect delivery into the box.

Arsenal looked to counter but Blues full-back Eve Perisset won the applause of manager Emma Hayes when she showed great strength to hold off and turn Caitlin Foord, setting the tone for a competitive encounter.

James’ electric start went up a level when she opened the scoring in the 15th minute.

Guro Reiten found the England forward who surged forward into space before she showed her technical capabilities, turning Steph Catley inside-out with a feint before her powerful effort was parried into the net by Manuela Zinsberger, who should have done better.

Chelsea refused to sit back, instead continuing to pile on the pressure, and their efforts were rewarded with another goal.

A dangerous cross into the box from Reiten was teed up for Cuthbert, whose shot from the edge of the box was deftly diverted home by Nusken to make it 2-0.

If that finish was instinctive, Nusken knew nothing about her second as Chelsea stretched their lead before half-time.

Leah Williamson’s crossfield pass was intercepted by Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, who drove forward towards back-pedalling defenders. Kaneryd chose to shoot and the ball fortunately deflected off the unaware Nusken into the left-hand corner.

James could have had a second but Zinsberger denied her from close range. The elusive winger picked up a neat pocket of space in the middle and went through on goal but her near-post effort was stopped by the Austria keeper’s quick reflexes.

Kim Little’s well-struck half-volley deflected in off the unfortunate Macario in the 85th minute to pull one back for Jonas Eidevall’s side but it was too late as Chelsea held out for a deserved 3-1 win.

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