By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow
Chelsea 3 v West Ham 2
Sam Kerr showed all her predatory instincts as she smashed home a hat trick as Chelsea ran out 3-2 winners against West Ham United in the WSL derby at Kingsmeadow.
The three points keeps the Blues within striking distance of top slot with a game in hand over leaders Manchester United who are three points ahead.
While the Hammers put on a good show, defending deep and broke with pace, this was the Kerr show.
But she remains a doubt for the away Champions League encounter against Benfica on Tuesday as she injured her left hip when slotting home her third goal.
West Ham never gave up but the Blues took control to go 3-1 up but a late second by East Enders kept the three points in doubt right to the end of the game.
The other winners where the near 400 fans who were allowed into Kingsmeadow after a nine-month pause due to the pandemic.
They pushed the players to the end and deserved as much plaudits as the team.
The Blues started brightly putting pressure on the West Hm defence, marshalled by Blue Gilly Flaherty.
the hammers thought they had a penalty on five minutes when it looked like Maren Mjelde touched. Long shot by by Emily Van Edmond. But referee Rebecca Welch waved away the pleas from the away side.
Martha Thomas had a shot saved by Ann-Katrin Berger as West Ham found some space to play the ball in up front.
But the Blues took the lead on 15 minutes when excellent set up play involving Fran Kirby saw Sam Kerr find space just outside the six-yard box and the Australia hit woman slide the bell home past Mackenzie Arnold.
But a minute later and the Hammers HD a great chance to equalise when Rachel Daly took advantage of a fluff by Magda Eriksson, and the forward raced clear with only Berger to beat. But the German held her position and managed to parry the goal-bound shot away from goal to spare the Chelsea centre-back’s blushes.
A Melanie Leupolz pile driver on 25 minutes forced a fine diving save from Arnold as the Blues went in search of the much-needed second goal.
Eriksson had a free header from a Mjelde free kick on 29 minutes, but hit the effort over the West Ham crossbar.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
Rachel’s Daly took just 90 seconds to level the scores when Adriana Leon raced down the left hand side, sent the ball in, and Daly poked the ball home.
But the home side did not panic and on 55 minutes, after Eriksson zipped the ball wide to Maria Thorisdottir who fed the ball to Kirby who sent the ball across to the far post where poacher Kerr was waiting and she smashed the ball home.
Head coach Emma Hayes opted to strengthen her centre bck position and move Memelde to her normal right back position this means that that Thorisdottir was taken off.
West Ham replaced Katie Longhurst with Ruby Grant.
Beth England was sacrificed for Guro Reiten along with Ji who was replaced by Sophie Ingle on 67 minutes.
Reiten’s first touch almost saw the ball crash into the back of the West Hm net but the blaster went inches wide.
But seconds later and Kerr tucked home her third after unselfish combination play between her and Pernille Harder and Kirby.
The later teed the ball perfectly for the striker to slot home from close range.
Kerr injured her left hip scoring the goal and was instantly replaced by Erin Cuthbert.
Kirby could have notched a fourth on 85 minutes but Arnold was equal to the task and stopped the drive at her near post.
With two minutes on the clock, West Ham scores a second when Emily Van Edmond tucked home after a lack of concentration in the Chelsea defence.
Arnold then produced the save of the match touching a wonderful Reiten free kick around the post for a corner.
The Blues successfully ran the extra six minutes of added time to secure three vital League points.
Teams: Chelsea, Berger, Thorisdottir, Leupolz, England, Ji, Kirby, Eriksson, Mjelde, Kerr, Harder, Andersson
Subs: Telford, Bright, Ingle, Carter, Reiten, Fleming, Charles, Cuthbert
West Ham: Arnold, Redisch, Flaherty, Thomas, Longhurst, Cho, Leon, Fisk, Van Edmond, Vetterlein, Daly
Subs: Brosnan, Lehman, Svitkova, Mustafi, Grant, Joel, Dali, Cissoko, Kiszis
Referee: Rebecca Welch
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