Ladies report: Sunderland 0 Chelsea 5

A brace from Claire Rafferty and further strikes from Gemma Davison, Millie Bright and Ji So-Yun helped Chelsea Ladies to a thumping win over Sunderland.

A dominant performance from the first whistle was rewarded with three goals in quick succession before the interval as Raff netted two goals from her new position as a left wing-back and Davison finished with aplomb. Precise strikes from Bright and Ji completed the scoring to secure a comfortable win for the Blues which moves us within two points of leaders Manchester City and with a game in hand.

The two sides met in the final game before the WSL's mid-season break, but it was a much-changed Chelsea line-up which took to the field at the Hetton Centre.

As well as four adjustments to the personnel, the Ladies also ditched their usual shape for a 3-5-2 formation. Bright and Jade Bailey came into the side to make up two thirds of the back three, along with Niamh Fahey, which took to the field in front of Hedvig Lindahl, with Gilly Flaherty and Hannah Blundell making way. A midfield trio of Katie Chapman, Karen Carney and Drew Spence, in for Eniola Aluko, were flanked by Ana Borges, who replaced Fran Kirby, absent with the injury she picked up on international duty, and Rafferty. Davison and Ji completed the starting 11.

The new system almost paid immediate dividends as Rafferty ghosted in at the back post to get on the end of Borges' deep cross after only three minutes, but she couldn't get enough behind her shot and Rachel Laws kept it out.

Clear-cut chances continued to come thick and fast in the early stages, with Ji smashing her shot over the bar when well placed and then, out of nothing, time seemed to stand still as Carney struck a low, right-footed shot which the keeper could only watch on helplessly as it hit the frame of the goal and rolled to safety.

Both Davison and Chapman also threatened to get on the scoresheet, but it was left to Rafferty to open the scoring with a quite brilliant goal. A well-time challenge by Borges won back the ball high up the pitch, but then it was all about the quality of Carney and the composure of our wing-back as a wonderful cross was superbly sent into the top corner by Raff's side-footed volley. Calmness personified and no less than the Blues deserved.

Sunderland's attacking play in the first half was largely restricted to finding Beth Mead early, but it almost paid off shortly before break as she somehow managed to get past Fahey only to smash her shot well over the bar. The missed chance would quickly come back to haunt her as Chelsea netted twice in quick succession.

Rafferty netted her second of the game after 41 minutes. While her first was the finish of a striker, this effort owed plenty to a poacher's instinct as she reacted quickest to Davison's shot being palmed away to finish into the same corner.

Two minutes later, Davison was sent scampering clear by Ji's pin-point through-ball which split the defence. From almost an identical position to her previous strike, the Blues No 7 sent a drilled finish into the far corner to give Chelsea a 3-0 lead. It was the least our superb attacking display deserved.

Sunderland replaced Roche with Ramshaw at the break, but the second half continued in much the same manner as the first – with Chelsea in the ascendancy. Borges twice got away down the right in the opening few minutes after the resumption; on the first occasion she squared to Carney for a shot just off target, but on the second she went it alone and poked the ball wide of the same post.

The Blues continued to dominate the ball without finding too many opportunities to threaten Laws' goal, although one fierce strike by Davison had the keeper scrambling across goal to claw the ball behind for a corner.

Containment was the name of the game for the visiting side in the second half, with a healthy lead to defend, but the odd chance continued to come our way. Chapman almost made it 4-0 with a tidy finish which Laws did well to turn away and then Spence immediately had an opportunity from the resulting corner, only to send her header off target.

It was the last action of the game for the midfielder, who made way soon after for Aluko, which was the second change by Hayes following Flaherty's introduction in place of Bailey. It was another defender, however, who was on target for the Blues next. Chapman turned on the edge of the box and it turned out to be a perfect pass for Bright, who curled a precise low shot past the goalkeeper at the near post.

Just as at the end of the first half, the goals came along like London buses and just moments later our lead had been extended to five. While there was to be no hat-trick for Rafferty, who made way for England, normal service was resumed by Ji as she jinked free inside the box before firing a left-footed shot into the far corner.

Carney came close to extending the lead with a trademark free-kick, but this time Laws was equal to it and we had to settle for a 5-0 victory which puts us on the heels of Man City.

The Blues return to action on Saturday with another away trip as we take on London Bees in the first round of the Continental Cup.

Sunderland (4-5-1): Laws; Brown, Bannon (c), Sharp, Williams; Furness, Chaplen, Joice (Holmes 75), Hill, Roche (Ramshaw h/t); Mead (Potts 79)
Unused subs: Olsen, McDougall

Chelsea (3-5-2): Lindahl; Bright, Fahey, Bailey (Flaherty 65); Borges, Spence (Aluko 70), Chapman (c), Carney, C Rafferty (England 73); Davison, Ji
Unused subs: Spencer, Cross
Goals: C Rafferty 30, 41, Davison 43, Bright 72, Ji 77

Crowd: 536