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Ian Chadband

Kerr turns provider as Lauren James steals Chelsea show

England star Lauren James has returned to her best, scoring a hat-trick for Chelsea in the WSL. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

It's rare that Sam Kerr is at the heart of a 5-1 triumph and doesn't get on the scoresheet herself.

But like the rest of her Chelsea teammates, Kerr will have had no problems playing a bit part in what proved a tour de force from England star Lauren James, who scored  a brilliant hat-trick in their hammering of Liverpool in the Women's Super League at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Kerr, fresh from her goal against Real Madrid in midweek when Chelsea felt aggrieved about decisions going against them in a 2-2 draw, was this time instrumental in the build up to three of the five goals.

Kerr set up James's second in the 56th minute, which put the Matildas skipper on top of the WSL's assist list, having set up three this season alongside two goals of her own.

Finding the finest player in English football at the moment with a neat pass, Kerr could only watch in admiration as James, back to her best after her eventful World Cup in Australia, fired home a left-foot tracer.

James had already set out her stall with a breathtaking opener in the 11th minute, after Kerr had set up Welsh international Sophie Ingle to free the England star down the left with a fine through ball.

The rest was all about the 22-year-old's brilliance as she ran at the defence, jinked left and slotted expertly home past Rachael Laws.

After Liverpool earned a quick equaliser through a Jess Carter own goal, Kerr then provided the provider, a clever pass freeing James to rampage down the left before a pinpoint left-foot cross gave Aggie Beever-Jones the easiest job to head home.

After James had completed her treble from close range in the 64th minute, Sjoeke Nusken made it five as Chelsea maintained their 100 per cent winning record and moved six points clear in the quest for a fifth straight WSL title.

It was Chelsea's first match since the announcement that their inspirational boss Emma Hayes will be taking over as manager of the United States women's team at the end of the season, and Kerr would doubtless have wanted to mark the occasion with a goal of her own.

But though she came close on a couple of occasions, Kerr, who is always said by Hayes to be a player she'd never swap for anyone else, was denied by Laws at point-blank range.  

It was also a big afternoon for Ingle, who in her 184th game set a new WSL record for most appearances in the competition.

Chelsea now have 19 points, six clear of Arsenal, who will be counting on their own Matildas striker Caitlin Foord to help them narrow the gap again with a win at Brighton on Sunday.

Mary Fowler will get her first taste of a Manchester derby when she turns out for City against United at Old Trafford in front of what may prove the biggest attendance to watch a WSL game.

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