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Women's football: Thrilling weekend of action in the WSL

The Women's Super League took centre stage this weekend and it certainly did not disappoint with plenty of goals, drama and incidents to be discussed.

Across the six matches played in the English top flight over the weekend, there were a staggering 24 goals scored, with the top three - Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City - all recording notable victories.

Lauren James inspires Chelsea to statement win

There was just one match in the WSL on Saturday, with leaders Chelsea playing host to Liverpool, and the defending champions underlined their title credentials with an emphatic win in what was their first home match since manager Emma Hayes announced she would be leaving the club at the end of the season.

Lauren James was the star of the show for the Blues as she bounced back from being left out of the starting line-up for the midweek Champions League draw at Real Madrid by claiming a hat-trick and an assist.

Aggie Beever-Jones and Sjoeke Nusken scored Chelsea's other goals, although Liverpool, who would have moved up to second with a victory, did briefly level during the first half through Jess Carter's own goal.

That proved no more than fleeting respite for the visitors, however, as Chelsea maintained their unbeaten start to the WSL season, recording their sixth win in seven to, at the time, move six points clear at the top of the standings.

Hayes' team are chasing a fifth successive WSL title this season and they are 4/9 favourites to go on and lift the trophy.

Beth Mead returns to Arsenal XI 

The remaining five matches in the WSL this weekend all took place on Sunday and Chelsea's win a day earlier meant the pressure was on second-placed Arsenal to claim all three points away at Brighton, who had beaten another title contender, Manchester City, just a week before.

Arsenal were themselves in good form though, having won five matches on the bounce across all competitions, and Jonas Eidevall’s side were ahead inside 12 minutes thanks to Stina Blackstenius' fourth WSL goal of the season.

The visitors then had to bide their time before adding a second through Caitlin Foord with 10 minutes remaining before Frida Maanum’s stoppage-time strike added further gloss to the scoreline late on.

A good day for Arsenal was made even better as England ace Beth Mead came through what was her first start since returning from 11 months out with an ACL injury unscathed. 

The 28-year-old played just over an hour on what was the anniversary of when she sustained the injury.

The victory saw Arsenal - 3/1 to end the season as champions - move back to within three points of Chelsea at the top of the standings, while Brighton are eighth, but priced at 8/1 to be relegated come the end of the campaign.

Man City claim derby win in front of record Old Trafford crowd

Manchester City had been leading the way in the WSL just a couple of weeks ago, but back-to-back league losses to Arsenal and Brighton meant Gareth Taylor's side went into their derby clash at Manchester United sitting sixth in the standings and nine points off the top.

No WSL team has ever won the title having lost three games in a single season, but in front of a record crowd of 43,615 for a women's league match at Old Trafford, City fell behind to a strike from United captain Katie Zelem.

However, two goals in the space of two minutes from Jill Roord and Lauren Hemp turned the game in City's favour before half time and when Khadjia Shaw added a third soon after the restart, it looked like the visitors were cruising to the three points.

The sending off of Laia Aleixandri inside the final 20 minutes for a second bookable offence did offer United some hope late on, but they couldn't force a route back into the game.

The victory lifted City, who are 8/1 to go on and be crowned champions, back up to third, a point and place above a United side that are now 16/1 to claim what would be their first WSL title.

Comeback win for improving Villa

After a disastrous start to the season, Aston Villa have now won three matches in a row across all competitions after Rachel Daly's stoppage-time strike handed them a 3-2 victory in what was a topsy turvy game at West Ham.

The victory, just Villa's second in the league this season, has lifted them up to ninth, while West Ham are only outside the relegation zone on goal difference and the Hammers are 5/1 to be relegated.

The only side below West Ham in the standings are Bristol City, who did earn a battling 2-2 draw away at fellow strugglers Everton thanks to a late Amalie Thestrup strike.

Bristol City are 2/5 favourites to suffer an immediate return to the Women's Championship following last season's promotion, while Everton are 5/1 to go down.

Sunday's other match saw the spoils shared as Leicester and Tottenham played out a 1-1 draw, with Janice Cayman's early opener for the hosts being cancelled out by Celin Bizet's second-half equaliser.

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