Leicester 0-9 Chelsea: Emma Hayes’ Blues replace Arsenal at top of WSL after joint-biggest league win
With Saturday’s north London derby between Jonas Eidevall’s Gunners and Tottenham postponed due to a Covid outbreak in the Spurs camp, Chelsea were presented the chance to finally hit the summit.
And they wasted absolutely no time in seizing it, recording their biggest win of the season thanks to two goals each from Guro Reiten, Beth England and Sam Kerr and one each from Aniek Nouwen, Lauren James and Jessie Fleming.
Emma Hayes’ side move onto 41 points from their 17 league games, one above Arsenal, with Leicester remaining second bottom.
Reiten got the significant victory up and running on a gloriously sunny afternoon in Leicestershire when she effortlessly guided in a stunning free-kick with just three minutes on the clock.
It undoubtedly set the tone, with Kerr taking advantage of some suspect defending to fire in at the second opportunity after Foxes goalkeeper Demi Lambourne had saved her initial shot.
Remarkably, it was three with seven minutes gone when England found the net after Kerr’s square ball and the Blues found a fourth when Nouwen helped in England’s shot soon afterwards.
As the tempo dropped, Leicester found a rare opening when their opponents conceded possession cheaply, but their promising counter came to a disappointing conclusion when Freya Gregory could only find the side netting.
The unstoppable Reiten created the fifth with a sublime ball to the far post, which England headed home, and then added her second of the game deep into first-half stoppage time with a mis-hit cross that dropped kindly over the line.
Just moments after the restart, Kerr guided a header – Chelsea’s seventh – into the bottom right corner, which undoubtedly killed any momentum Leicester boss Lydia Bedford had generated with her half-time team talk, but though they were left chasing shadows for the most part, the hosts kept their opponents at bay for long periods.
That changed late on. James scored her first goal for Chelsea with a neat finish from a Niamh Charles pull-back, before Fleming added the gloss in stoppage time by finishing off a slick attack.
Player of the match – Guro Reiten
In the build-up to the game, the 27-year-old Norwegian had told Sky Sports’ Ron Walker: “It would mean everything [to pip Arsenal to the title] after the season we have had. We love playing each other, Arsenal and us. Hopefully we can be number one when the season is over.”
Thanks to a superb contribution on Sunday, she has played a key role in ensuring Chelsea have their destiny in their own hands heading into the final months of the season. She scored two stunning goals and caught the eye with some sumptuous balls into the box from the left.
She was withdrawn relatively early at the King Power, but by then, her work was done. The rest will do her – and Chelsea’s title hopes – the world of good.