Sam Kerr shone yet again as her first-half hat-trick helped guide Barclays FA Women’s Super League table-toppers Chelsea to a thumping 6-0 win over Birmingham City on Sunday at Kingsmeadow.
Fran Kirby, who has similarly performed to an impeccably high standard this year, also bagged a brace in the second period of the match while Norwegian winger Guro Reiten also etched her name onto the scoresheet.
Kerr’s performance now sees her lead the top-scoring ranks with the same number of goals (17) and assists (5) as Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema, but Kerr has done so at a rate of 75 minutes per goal in comparison to Miedema’s 88.
“The confidence in [Sam Kerr's] play right now is better than I've ever seen her. She delivers the fatal blow whenever the team needs it, that's what's so exceptional,” Chelsea boss Emma Hayes said of Kerr’s performance.
“These games can be tricky if you don't get the first goal early enough, but she pounces in the right moments to put us in the lead.”
Chelsea have now reached the 50-point mark with three league games remaining and their meeting with Manchester City after the international break will likely be title-defining.
At the opposite end of the table, Martha Thomas stole the show as West Ham recorded an unexpected 5-0 win at Reading on Saturday.
The Irons went into the clash at the bottom of the table and having failed to win in 2021, yet they found themselves three to the good within 11 minutes thanks to goals from Kenza Dali, Katerina Svitkova and Thomas.
Thomas then netted a further two in the first half before a goalless second was played out at the Madejski Stadium.
After the match, West Ham head coach Olli Harder said: “It was a fantastic performance from Martha. The last few games have been difficult for her in terms of having to create chances for herself, and hopefully this will do the world of good for her confidence.
“We have five games left and I felt this type of result was coming, I'm just glad it happened today.”
The three points - and the improved goal difference - could prove crucial for Harder’s side as they look to secure WSL safety. They now sit two points off the foot of the table having played the same number of games as bottom side Aston Villa.
Manchester United have seen their Champions League qualification hopes fall out of their grasp. At one point, the Reds sat at the top of the table, but they now look likely to finish fourth.
Sunday’s 1-0 loss away to Brighton further cemented that, as there had previously been hope that third-placed Arsenal would slip up in the remaining handful of matches.
Inessa Kaagman’s first-half penalty condemned a United side without Christen Press and Hayley Ladd - who were both absent through injury - to defeat.
The Reds’ misfortune was Arsenal’s gain, however, and it looks as if Joe Montemurro will cap off his tenure in charge of the Gunners with qualification for European competition.
They secured a comfortable 4-0 triumph away to Bristol City on Sunday, with Miedema bagging two while Danielle van de Donk and Beth Mead also chipped in.
Bristol City now sit just one point and one place ahead of Aston Villa in the fight to avoid relegation, with the latter holding two games in hand over Matt Beard’s side.
Villa suffered an unfortunate 3-1 loss at the hands of Everton at Walton Hall Park on Sunday afternoon.
The hosts opened the scoring in the first half through Lucy Graham, and Hayley Raso then had a goal disallowed on the stroke of half-time as she was offside in the build-up.
Graham had a penalty saved by Villa stopper Lisa Weiss before Izzy Christiansen doubled Everton’s advantage from the spot, and Simone Magill added a third ahead of Chloe Arthur's late consolation for the visitors.
Manchester City secured their 12th WSL victory in a row against Tottenham Hotspur 3-0, and they are now level with Arsenal for the best ever winning run within a single WSL season.
City, who were without the injured Lucy Bronze and who had to have Aoife Mannion replace Alex Greenwood at late notice, went ahead early on when Becky Spencer put the ball into her own net.
Janine Beckie and Caroline Weir scored too as the Blues ran out as comfortable victors.