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Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal: Blues sock it to rivals as James shines
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Reuben Rosso-Powell
Press Association
Lauren James with her Chelsea team-mates after opening the scoring
Lauren James with her Chelsea team-mates after opening the scoring

Chelsea beat Women's Super League title rivals Arsenal 3-1 after a clash of socks delayed the Stamford Bridge encounter by 30 minutes.

Victory moved the Blues three points clear of second-placed Manchester City, who have the chance to respond against Brighton on Sunday, and six ahead of the Gunners.

The reigning champions avenged their 4-1 defeat at the hands of Arsenal at the Emirates in December through goals from Lauren James and Sjoeke Nusken's brace.

Versatile midfielder Nusken's double put her on six league goals for the season and sub Catarina Macario’s own goal was mere consolation for the visitors in the second half.

Kick-off was pushed back while Arsenal staff bought black socks from the home side's club shop, using blue tape to cover the Chelsea and Nike logos.

Arsenal's white adidas socks, the same colour as Chelsea's, had been deemed not fit for purpose by referee Rebecca Welch.

Once the delay was over the hosts started aggressively in front of a crowd of 32,970 — a new record for one of the women's team's games at the Bridge.

They fought for 50-50 challenges and the physical James bullied her marker as she was unleashed down the right before Erin Cuthbert was unable to convert her inch-perfect delivery into the box.

Arsenal looked to counter but Blues full-back Eve Perisset won the applause of manager Emma Hayes when she showed great strength to hold off and turn Caitlin Foord, setting the tone for a competitive encounter.

James' electric start went up a level when she opened the scoring in the 15th minute.

Guro Reiten found the England forward, who surged into space before she showed her technical capabilities, turning Steph Catley inside-out with a feint prior to unleashing a powerful effort that was parried into the net by Manuela Zinsberger.

Chelsea refused to sit back and their efforts were rewarded with another goal.

A dangerous cross into the box from Reiten was teed up for Cuthbert, whose shot from the edge of the box was deftly diverted home by Nusken to make it 2-0.

If that finish was instinctive, Nusken knew nothing about her second as Chelsea stretched their lead before half-time.

Leah Williamson's crossfield pass was intercepted by Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, who drove forward towards back-pedalling defenders.

Kaneryd chose to shoot and the ball fortunately deflected off the unaware Nusken into the left-hand corner.

James could have had a second but Zinsberger denied her from close range.

The elusive winger picked up a neat pocket of space in the middle and went through on goal but her near-post effort was stopped by the Austria keeper's quick reflexes.

Kim Little’s well-struck half-volley deflected in off the unfortunate Macario in the 85th minute to pull one back for Jonas Eidevall’s side but it was too late as Chelsea held out for a deserved victory.


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