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Injury hit Chelsea dismantle Arsenal to turn WSL title race into a two-horse affair

Chelsea women line up with Arsenal ahead of their WSL clash

Chelsea women made a convincing statement of intent in the Women’s Super League as their injury-hit squad blew title challengers Arsenal away 3-1.


Talk ahead of kick-off had focussed on those not in action for the blues, with new signings Mayra Ramirez and Natalie Bjorn adding to an already lengthy injury list.


Manager Emma Hayes called on her squad players to step up when given the opportunity and the message was heeded by the versatile Sjoeke Nusken who grasped her opportunity with an assist and two goals.


The German, deployed as a number ten this evening, has largely been used from the bench this season playing across the back line and in midfield.


The game started, or rather it didn’t, with a half an hour delay caused by an apparent kit clash caused by the similarity of both sides socks.


The delay gave a member of Arsenal’s staff time to head to the Chelsea megastore and purchase black away socks with the Arsenal players using tape to cover the Chelsea logo.


Chelsea know that when Lauren James is on form, they possess a world class game changer and tonight she was up for it from the start.


Her early shots from distance were a warning for the Arsenal defence and it was the Chelsea maverick who opened the scoring after 15 minutes.


After being played through on the right by Nusken, James turned Arsenal full back inside out before firing her shot at the near post which Arsenal goalkeeper Mauela Zinsberger will have been disappointed not to have kept out.


Six minutes later, Nusken got herself on the scoresheet as she reacted first to stick out a reactionary foot and divert Erin Cuthbert’s shot into the back of the net.


If her first goal was quick-thinking, her second was pure luck 10 minutes later as Johanna Rytting-Kaneryd’s shot hit her on the back and deflected past the wrong-footed Zinsberger.


Arsenal rang the changes at half-time, with surprise substitute Alessia Russo, the hero of the reverse fixture, being brought into the fray to try and salvage something from the game.


The changes seemed to get the visitors more of a foothold in the game without providing them with much of an attacking threat.


Chelsea under Hayes do not relinquish three goal leads and at no point did the game ever threaten to serve up a surprise.


If they are being honest, Chelsea were wasteful and should have extended their lead as Zinsberger denied James as she went through one on one as well as making a great save from Rytting-Kaneryd who connected with Guro Reiten’s clever cut back.


Arsenal did manage to grab a consolation as Kim Little’s shot deflected off of substitute Cat Macario, but the goal never looked likely to deliver an unexpected comeback.


Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall refused to blame the delayed kick off for his sides poor performance, focussing on his sides inability to deal with Chelsea’s threats.


He said: “We were not good enough, we turned the ball over too easily and got caught on the counter attack too many times.”


“We knew what they were going to do but we played into their strengths.”


Manager Emma Hayes was full of praise for her players and was delighted in the way they approached the game given their injury list.


Hayes said: ““We’re depleted but we had a game plan, we cut them off in certain areas and we countered brilliantly.”


Hayes had called for a “Chelsea performance” in the build up and believed that that was what she got. She said: “I knew what we were going to get and the players delivered.”


On the delay caused by the clash of socks, Hayes was measured and compassionate in her response. She said: “I’m gutted for their kit man, they’re new and I’m sure it’s the last thing they need.”


The result sends Chelsea three points clear at the top of the WSL having played one game more than Manchester City.


The blues must regroup quickly as they get set to face Ajax away in the Women’s Champions League.

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