Can we gift her the crown yet? There's nobody that deserves it more. There's only one queen of Chelsea's castle, and her name is Lauren James. Seven goals at the SW6 for No. 10. No other player, male of female was been able to eclipse that mark this season. It only took five games too.
With the encouragement of the large turnout, Chelsea Women rode James' brilliance in the final third, laying another gut punch to Manchester United's hopes of becoming serious contenders for the league title. The former United attacker could not care less if she was getting booed from the away end. James simply smirked, knowing that there was nothing her ex-employer could to do to slow her down in front of goal. Not even "The Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper", Mary Earps.
The Blues made four changes to the West Ham starting XI which included inserting Mia Fishel into the starting striker role for the second time at the Bridge this season. Nathalie Björn made her first start for the club at left center back while Melanie Leupolz accompanied Erin Cuthbert in the defensive half of the midfield. The shock came in net. English stop-stopper Hannah Hampton was preferred to Zecira Musovic for the second successive WSL match. Niamh Charles, just days after the confirmation of her new contract donned the captain's armband in the absence of two leaders.
Emma Hayes gave credit where credit was due not only to James, but others as well.
"I’ve never seen a player like Lauren doing the things she does…There were a lot of unbelievable performances today that allowed LJ to thrive.”
Compared to what went down at Kingsmeadow last weekend, this was far and away a much more sharper display, especially in those first 45 minutes. James netted two goals in the first 23 minutes, set up by Johanna Rytting Kaneryd and Nathalie Björn from the back. Slow starts have been somewhat of a recurring theme for the west Londoners. Not on Sunday. Cuthbert energy, Leupolz's cleanliness, and Kaneryd's threat out wide were key reasons for that.
Man United did not go down without a fight, though, using a goal by Haley Ladd to push onto the front foot during the first parts of the second 45. Important interventions by Ashley Lawrence, and Hannah Hampton prevented the reality of an equalizing goal. Kadeisha Buchanan's carelessness once again caused trouble for the Blues, nearly gifting the Red Devils a goal just before the hour.
The momentum then shifted back into the Chels' favor minutes after the inclusion of Sjoeke Nusken into the midfield. James wrapped it all up in the 85', using a nifty header from Nusken as the catalyst to a brilliant run that led her to become the first WSL player to score a hattrick against the Reds of Manchester.
Even with triumphs by Arsenal and Manchester City, the Blues remain at the summit with Brighton and Hove Albion awaiting next weekend. City and AFC each have an encounter against a top-six WSL outfit next weekend, potentially a chance for the Chels to expand the lead even more. Erin Cuthbert, who pieced together yet another top-class performance in the middle of the pitch summed up the 90 minutes well.
"It was maybe not always going to be pretty, but we've came up with moments of brilliance and we've kept the door shut as much as possible."
Before the entire Chelsea world shifts its attention to Tuesday night at the Bridge, here are our takeaways as Hayes' team continues to prove to be United's kryptonite.