Chelsea beat Arsenal to extend WSL lead after sock-clash delay


Lawson: Wrong socks and wrong tactics from Arsenal!

Sophie Lawson analyses Chelsea's 3-1 win over Arsenal after the game was delayed due to kit socks clash.

Chelsea maintained their charge for a fifth consecutive Women's Super League (WSL) title with a dominant 3-1 win over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Friday after the kickoff was delayed due to a kit clash.

Emma Hayes' side had the game effectively sealed by half-time, going into the break 3-0 up courtesy of Lauren James' early strike and a brace from Sjoeke Nüsken.

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The high-stakes WSL encounter in London was delayed by 30 minutes owing to both sides wearing white socks. The game eventually began with Arsenal players sporting blue and black socks of Chelsea's away kit.

A win would have seen Arsenal go level on points with Chelsea at the top of the table, but the meekness of their display now leaves them six-points behind the leaders in third place. Chelsea are up to 40 points, three ahead of second-placed Manchester City, who visit Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.

"I'm not going to throw the kit man under the bus," Hayes said in her news conference afterward. "He is going to be feeling terrible this evening. It's a mistake. It's a mistake. He's a new guy into the position. Please, don't slaughter him. It happened.

"If we would have had blue socks and if this was an away game, we would have had white and blue. But, because it was a home game, we knew three weeks in advance we'd be wearing white socks. We're the home team but because we didn't have blue, I couldn't just say 'don't worry about it, put the blue socks on' because we didn't have them.

"I was delighted to see lion crests on Arsenal's legs in the first half. Maybe that gave my players motivation, I do not know."

It was a must-win game for the hosts and they had the first-clear chance of the game, after Kim Little's shot from a cut-back was sharply saved by Hannah Hampton.

Steph Catley broke into the box a minute later but couldn't pack any power behind her shot, which was easily smothered by Hampton.

But after that point, the Chelsea goalkeeper was largely a bystander in the half with her teammates in front of her putting on a show.

Chelsea's opening goal in the 15th minute was bookended by Arsenal mistakes --- Lia Wälti cheaply lost possession in midfield and a quick diagonal from Guro Reiten found a rampant James, who charged into the box before unleashing a powerful shot from a tight angle. Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger got a hand on it but the ball looped over her head into the goal.

Lauren James celebrates Chelsea's opening goal in their win over Arsenal.
Harriet Lander - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

The hosts' second goal, which came just six minutes later, was marked by fortune and finesse in equal parts. Erin Cuthbert's shot from the edge of the box fell to Nüsken, who neatly sorted out her feet to divert the wayward strike into the bottom corner.

Arsenal had responded well to going a goal behind but the second one was a sucker-punch they never truly recovered from.

Chelsea's dynamism in midfield suffocated the visitors, who constantly found passing alleys blocked off and spaces constricted, in large part thanks to the nous and bite of Melanie Leupolz and Cuthbert.

England captain Leah Williamson looked like a player making just her second league start this season and was at fault for Chelsea's third goal. Her diagonal ball was easily intercepted by Johanna Kaneryd, who set off towards goal before cutting in on her left foot and taking a shot that took a deflection off the fortuitous Nüsken for her second goal of the game.

Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall brought on Emily Fox, Alessia Russo and Frida Maanum at half-time in an attempt to shake things up. But the game was already long gone by then.

Arsenal found greater tempo in the second half but it was Chelsea who still possessed the defining thrust. A beautifully weighted through ball from the impressive Niamh Charles played in James, whose shot from close range was well saved by Zinsberger.

The England international was a constant thorn in the side of Arsenal, with her combination of lithe movement and strength continually leaving players trailing in her wake.

Charles' substitution midway through the second half after what looked like a possible knock was perhaps the only blip on a near-perfect night for Chelsea.

Catarina Macario came on late in the second half to loud cheers but her cameo didn't go as planned, with Little's strike from the edge of the box taking a deflection off the United States international to pull a goal back for Arsenal in the 86th minute.

But it proved no more than consolation as Chelsea comfortably saw out the remaining minutes to seal the three points.