James leads the way as Chelsea beat Arsenal 3-1 in thriller at Stamford Bridge

By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea 3 v Arsenal 1

32, 970

Lauren James demonstrated her extraordinary talent to propel Chelsea to a vital 3-1 win over title aspirants Arsenal at Stamford Bridge tonight.

James, 22, was unplayable and scored the opener for the Blues, that, while had a touch of fortune about it, simply emphasised that high quality brings with it the gift that defies understanding.

A brace of goals from Sjoeke Nusken – both an extra dose of good fortune were enough to see off the north Londoners who have now lost four WSL games and are six points behind league leaders Chelsea.

A late consolation from Kim Little gave little cheer to the Gooners’ thousands of supporters in the 32,790 crowd.

James, whose body strength can hold off the greatest of challenges, and who can play the pass in her head before actually doing it, thus gaining decisive advantage over an opponent was on top form.

Arsenal by contrast must hope second-place Man City and Chelsea falter as the league season enters its final phases.

After an astonishing 30 minute delay because the visitors brought along the wrong socks and caused a kit clash, the game kicked off with Chelsea starting well.

Lauren James started as the ‘false No9’ and had a couple of early sighters on the Arsenal goal – well they ended up in the Matthew Harding stand, but you get the point.

Arsenal ended up wearing Chelsea’s away socks with the club logo tapped up.

Apparently the north Londoners had to go to the club’s shop and buy the sock – “no discount, for non-staff,” quipped an Chelsea insider.

A sublime chip by James to Johanna Rytting Kaneryd on 11 minutes was just slightly overhit, allowing Manuela Zinsberger to snaffle the angled shot.

The game was very end-to-end with neither side controlling the ball as much as they would like.

Chelsea’s side was a makeshift defence coupled with a make-do attack.

But while James is on the pitch for the Blues, they have a chance and she duly delivered on 15 minutes, but what a howler from Zinsberger, who allowed her edge of the six-yard shot smack off her left glove and the ball looped in to the back of the net.

Arsenal recovered well from the setback and posed a threat on the counter-attack.

Quite how long the Chelsea defence would repel them, remained to be seen.

The Blues doubled their lead and while a degree of good fortune was in their camp, it was self-created.

Staring from an excellent kick out by Hannah Hampton on 21 minutes, Chelsea quickly moved the ball about. It ended up at the right foot of Erin Cuthbert just outside the Arsenal area. She struck a daisy-cutter, that was going wide (hence the good fortune) and Sjoeke Nusken stuck her leg out and deflected the ball back on track and it ended up in the back of the net.

If the second goal had some good fortune, then on 32 minutes they reached new levels as Rytting Kaneryd picked up a long ball on the right, arrowed to the edge of the area. Nusken moved across her to her right to create more space for Kaneryd, who then tried a left-footer.

Again, not great, and in the real world would have gone wide for a goal kick, yet the smiling gods were aligned and the ball hit the back of Nusken and curled into the far corner of the net to make it 3-0.

Katie McCabe was the first player into Rebecca Welch’s book on 42 minutes for a foul on James.

Reiten hit the top netting from the subsequent free-kick.

Arsenal made a raft of substitutes at half-time.

On came Alessia Russo, Emily |Fox and Frida Maanum, staying in the changing room were Stina Blackstenius, Steph Catley and Victoria Pelova.

Chelsea remained unchanged.

While the north Londoners dominated possession, it was Chelsea who had a chance to the first goal of the second half. Zinsberger went some way to redeeming herself for the first goal by denying an in-running Rytting Kaneryd on 53 minutes.

Cloe Lacasse was brought on by Jonas Eidevall on 56 minutes, off went Caitlin Foord.

Zinsberger was at it again on 62 minutes, foiling James who had run clear on goal.

The stopper blocked the somewhat tame, for James effort.

It infuriated the watching Emma Hayes, who knew a fourth goal would kill off the game as a contest.

Lacasse’s first contribution was getting a yellow car fro tripping Niamh Charles on 67 minutes.

A third save by Zinsberger, this time to prevent a blaster from Rytting Kaneryd from putting a hole in the back of the net, spared the Arsenal blushes as they went in search of the goal that could yet turn the game round.

Hayes’s first substitution saw Ashley Lawrence come on for Charles with 20 minutes left on the clock.

Arsenal’s final sub saw Walti off and Kyra Cooney-Cross replace her a minute later.

Catarina Macario was then given a eight minute cameo at the expense of the extraordinary James.

But with five minutes left on the clock, was it a consolation goal or something else as a Kim Little shot took a wicked deflection and smashed in to the back of the Chelsea net to reduce the deficit to 3-1?

It was a consolation.

Teams: Chelsea: Hampton, Nusken, Carter, Leupolz, James, Reiten, Perisset, Rytting Kaneryd, Charles, Cuthbert, Buchanan

Subs: Musovic, Ingle, Macario, Lawrence, Kirby, Hamano, Cankovic, Beever-Jones

Arsenal: Zinsberger, Wubben-Moy, Williamson, Catley, Mead, Little, Walti, McCabe, Foord, Pelova, Blackstenius

Subs: D’Angelo, Bouhaddi, Fox, Maanum, Russo, Lacasse, Codina, Cooney-Cross, Reid.

Referee: Rebecca Welch

Picture top: Action from Chelsea v Arsenal Picture: PA

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