Sam Kerr scored a hat-trick and Fran Kirby brought up a century of goals for the Blues in a thumping victory over a Birmingham City side struggling at the foot of the Women’s Super League standings.

Aside from our recent home game against Servette, Emma Hayes’s side have been in scintillating form in front of goal over the past fortnight and this was another example of our attacking play simply being too much for the opposition.

It was always going to be a big ask for a Birmingham City side who sacked their head coach in the build-up to the game, but their job became even tougher when they conceded after only four minutes.

Kirby was the scorer with a sumptuous lofted finish over former Blues keeper Marie Hourihan, following a defensive mix-up, and it was all one-way traffic from that moment.

Although Hourihan was doing her best to keep it competitive, she was beaten three more times before the half was out, with each goal scored by the brilliant Kerr, who took her WSL tally for the season to nine with a superb hat-trick.

Her first was a clinical finish after she was sent clear by Jessie Fleming, which she added to with a close-range effort after the Canadian was again involved in the build-up. Her treble was complete shortly before the break when she was first to react to Drew Spence’s shot being palmed to her, as she directed a header home.

Birmingham managed to stem the flow somewhat in the second half, but there was still one more goal to come – and a milestone strike at that. The Kerr and Kirby combination has long been arguably the deadliest in the WSL and the two linked up to devastating effect once more, as the former found the latter for an emphatic close-range finish to bring up a century of goals for Chelsea Women.

The margin of victory was the least our performance merited, but most importantly it was three more points in our race for a third straight WSL title, with Arsenal just a point ahead of us at the top of the standings.

It’s the Gunners who we meet next after the international round of internationals, on the biggest stage in English football, as the two sides go head-to-head at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 5 December with the Women’s FA Cup at stake.

Hayes had made six changes to her side for the midweek game against Servette and she continued to get full use out of her squad less than 72 hours after that game. This time there were seven alterations to the starting XI, with Ann-Katrin Berger, Jess Carter, Ann-Katrin Berger1, Melanie Leupolz, Spence, Guro Reiten and Fleming returning to the team in place of Zecira Musovic, Maren Mjelde, Jonna Andersson, Sophie Ingle, Ji So-Yun, Niamh Charles and Ann-Katrin Berger0.

The manager also dispensed with the 4-4-2 formation she started with against Servette, reverting to three at back. That meant Millie Bright, Carter and Magda Eriksson lined up in front of Berger. In midfield, Cuthbert and Reiten were back to flank Leupolz and Spence, while Fleming, Kirby and Kerr had free reign to interchange at will in attack.

The tone for a one-sided encounter was set inside the first 30 seconds, with the Blues testing Hourihan twice in quick succession. The first, a strike from Spence, forced a fine save, although Cuthbert could only make minimal contact on the rebound, which the former Blue found rather easier to deal with.

It wasn’t long before we were in front, though, as Kirby scored a splendid goal to take her Chelsea tally one way from a century. Hourihan was on her way to collecting a hopeful ball into the box from Eriksson, but one of her defenders either didn’t hear the shout or opted to ignore it, as she cleared it straight to Kirby. Our No14 didn’t need a second invitation – or, indeed, another touch – as she chipped a first-time finish over the keeper and into the far corner.

We were all over the visitors, pinning them back to their own 18-yard box and creating chances at will. A quick interchange between Reiten and Kirby saw the latter perfectly weight her return pass for the former to ping over a first-time cross that was turned just wide by Fleming. Another slick passing move was followed by a booming 30-yard drive by Bright that the keeper did well to turn behind.

The opportunities didn’t dry up there, and before 20 minutes were on the clock we’d doubled our lead. It was far too easy to play through the Birmingham defence and Fleming made full advantage of the time and space afforded to her, slipping a delightful pass through for Kerr to do the rest with a right-footed finish across Hourihan.

The Australian could have had a second soon after with an opportunistic header, but she didn’t have to wait long to put that right. Spence and Leupolz crowded out the Birmingham midfield to win possession high up the pitch, which allowed Fleming to attempt a teasing ball to the back stick that Kerr tried to square for Kirby. It was just out of her reach, but fortunately for our No20 it dropped kindly for her to smash into an empty net.

The half-time break couldn’t come soon enough for the visitors. They simply could not get close to the Blues and Reiten was the next player to try her luck, after playing a one-two with Cuthbert and smashing the return pass at goal on the run, forcing another fine stop from Hourihan. The rebound dropped kindly for Fleming, but it was a rare misstep in front of goal by the Canadian, who has been prolific in the WSL of late, as her tame finish was cleared off the line by Holloway.

Just as it looked like Birmingham might get through to the interval without suffering any further damage, they conceded again. Once more they were simply too slow getting out to block a shot, allowing Spence far too much time to crack one from the edge of the box. Hourihan got a hand to it but could only palm the ball as far as Kerr, who showed a true striker’s instinct to react in an instant and head it past the keeper. Out came the acrobatic celebration after a quite brilliant hat-trick.

Having been torn apart in the first half, Birmingham looked to tighten things up after the break and, to their credit, they did at least manage to keep the clear-cut chances down, even if we continued to pick them apart. The odd sight at goal came and went, most notably a fierce drive from Cuthbert that Hourihan saved, but Birmingham’s sense of urgency at the back meant they were snuffing out more of those passes in behind and across the penalty box.

Finally, their resolve was broken in the second half – and the identity of our goalscorer came as little surprise. Lauren James, who had just come off the bench for her second Chelsea appearance in the space of a few days, slipped in Kerr down the right and her inch-perfect low centre was buried by Kirby. For the 100th time, the back of the net rippled from a shot by Super Fran. What a moment!

We should have had a sixth a few minutes later after brilliant link-up play between two of our substitutes. James managed to fashion a yard of space down the right and she made full use of it by whipping in a teasing cross for England, who almost made an immediate impact off the bench, as she headed it over Hourihan and towards the far corner, only for a defender to clear it off the line.

Our No9 went close once more, this time firing a left-footed strike just off target, and Birmingham threatened for the first time in stoppage time when a header had to be cleared off the line by Bright. A consolation goal would have been harsh on a Chelsea defence who had previously prevented them from even having a sniff, as we brought up a sixth clean sheet on the bounce.

Now it’s a short break for internationals, before the big one at Wembley Stadium, as we take on Arsenal on Sunday 5 December with the Women’s FA Cup up for grabs. Tickets for that game are still available – click here to buy yours now!

Chelsea (3-4-1-2) Berger; Bright, Carter, Eriksson (c); Cuthbert, Leupolz, Spence, Reiten (Andersson 78); Fleming (James 67); Kerr, Kirby (England 78)Unused subs Musovic, Ingle, Ji, Mjelde, Charles, FoxScorers Kirby 4, 75, Kerr 18, 29, 44Booked Bright 84

Birmingham City (4-5-1) Hourihan; Scott, Louise Quinn, Sandvej (Lawley 62), Holloway; Smith, Pennock (Whelan 75), Robertson (Whipp h/t), Murray, Lucy Quinn; Ewens (Sarri 75)Unused subs Ramsey, Simkin, Finn, Ryan-Doyle, CowieBooked Lawley 63

Referee Elizabeth Simms

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