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Chelsea Women 5-1 Liverpool Women: Lauren James' first WSL hat-trick helps take Blues six points clear

England forward Lauren James scored a hat-trick and created one goal as Chelsea beat Liverpool at Stamford Bridge to move six points clear at the top of the Women's Super League.

In the Blues' first home match since manager Emma Hayes announced she will leave her role at the end of the season to become the next boss of the United States women's team, the hosts went ahead after only 11 minutes.

James collected the ball 30 yards out, ran at Liverpool defender Gemma Bonner, got into the penalty area, shifted the ball on to her left foot and drilled a low finish past Rachael Laws.

The assist for James' goal went to Wales captain Sophie Ingle on the day she set a new WSL record for most appearances in the competition - her 184th game to move one clear of former Birmingham City and Tottenham defender Kerys Harrop.

However, Liverpool, who would have gone second with a win, equalised against the run of play less than two minutes later.

Shanice van de Sanden was able to spin past England defender Jess Carter and run at the home defence, with Carter then inadvertently bundling the ball over her own goalline from Van de Sanden's low cross.

James had been left out of the starting line-up for Chelsea's 2-2 Champions League draw against Real Madrid on Wednesday, but was superb on her recall and her excellent cross from the left was headed in by Aggie Beever-Jones to restore Chelsea's lead.

Chelsea added a third early in the second half, with James collecting Sam Kerr's pass and drilling an excellent low strike into the corner from a tight angle. James then completed her first WSL hat-trick for Chelsea, getting to a pull-back from substitute Johanna Rytting Kaneryd before team-mate Sjoeke Nusken.

James started the move too for Chelsea's fifth as she played in Rytting Kaneryd and her cross was finished at close range by Nusken.

Hayes' team are chasing their fifth successive WSL title and have won six and drawn one of their opening seven league matches in 2023-24.

They have played a game more than second-placed Arsenal and the Gunners will cut the lead back to three points if they win away against Brighton on Sunday.

'I felt like I was abandoning my family'

The win extends Chelsea's incredible home record that has now seen them win 19 successive WSL home matches (at either Kingsmeadow or Stamford Bridge) since a 0-0 draw with Arsenal in February 2022.

Hayes has been with Chelsea since 2012 and guided the club to six WSL titles, five FA Cups, two League Cups and a Champions League final, and she is on course to add more silverware before taking up the United States job next summer.

Writing in the matchday programme, she said: "It's not a decision I took lightly and it's probably one of the hardest things I've done in my life. When you spend 11 years with a club as special as this, it becomes you. Chelsea is my club and it always will be.

"We've grown so much together and it really has been the experience of a lifetime to be a part of this, making memories and forming friendships that will last forever.

"It felt like I was abandoning my family when I told the girls and I've felt a lot of sadness in the days since. I'm so proud of what we have achieved together. I hope you understand why I've taken this decision."

Captain Millie Bright, who was not in the matchday squad for the Liverpool game, said all the players were "gutted" and added: "I've got such a great relationship with Em, she's been a mentor to me for so many years and almost like a life coach.

"We're losing a special manager and more than that, a special person. Em has been a serial winner for a decade. Now we just have to stay focused on the season, that's what Emma wants, that's what she's doing so we remain focused on the task ahead - winning trophies."

Despite the news surrounding their manager, Chelsea remain as focused as ever and judging by this performance, and with James in such imperious form, they are going to take some stopping this season as Hayes aims to bow out with more silverware.