A Lauren James masterclass saw Chelsea to a 3-1 WSL victory over Aston Villa at Kingsmeadow on Sunday afternoon.
Having sat on the bench as Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder netted seven goals between them during Chelsea's 8-0 destruction of Vllaznia in midweek, James popped up with a pair of superb solo strikes either side of Rachel Daly's deft finish, before turning provider for Kerr as Chelsea took all three points in a tightly fought contest.
A busy, end-to-end first half almost provided an opening goal inside five minutes, but Anna Leat was on hand to acrobatically tip a scorching Guro Reiten effort over the bar.
The Villa keeper could do nothing about Chelsea's opener, as James burst past Rachel Corsie with a smart first touch and arrowed an effort into the bottom corner after receiving Guro Reiten's cut back.
Villa grew into the game and caused problems of their own, Anna Patten forcing a save from Ann-Katrin Berger with a strike from the edge of the area, and Kenza Dali firing just wide following a looping Sarah Mayling delivery.
Chelsea looked electric when they hit their stride in the final third, with Harder drawing another good save from the busy Leat, before the Villa keeper was called into action again, smothering a Kerr effort as the Australian striker attempted to round her, having been sent scurrying through after a fabulous, flowing Blues move.
The hosts were made to pay for their missed opportunities as Villa equalised after 38 minutes. Daly was quickest to react to latch onto Mayling's teasing low cross from the right and smartly turned home from close range to leave proceedings finely poised at the break.
Chelsea re-took the lead two minutes into the second half - courtesy of more magic from James. The Chelsea forward received the ball from Harder, rounded Maz Pacheco with her first touch and slammed the ball into the roof of the net with her second.
Villa twice came close to equalising through Kenza Dali - the French midfielder drawing a save from Berger with a low drive, before firing narrowly over from the edge of the area following a loose James pass.
James atoned for her error shortly after, playing a measured pass for Kerr to bury emphatically just after the hour.
GK: Ann-Katrin Berger - 7/10 - Held onto a Patten effort in the first half and smartly punched away a dangerous Dali delivery.
RB: Eve Perisset (87' for Carter) - 8/10 - Had a great battle with Hanson, stopping the pacy Villa winger in her tracks on a couple of occasions.
CB: Millie Bright - 6/10 - Beaten to the ball by Daly for Villa's equaliser. Otherwise solid.
CB: Kadeisha Buchanan - 6/10 - Brought the ball out confidently from the back on a few occasions, and pretty solid defensively.
LB: Magdalena Eriksson - 6/10 - Fired narrowly wide from a corner early in the first half. Beaten by the pace of Mayling in the build-up to Villa's equaliser.
CM: Sophie Ingle - 7/10 - Neat and tidy, linked play well.
CM: Erin Cuthbert - 7/10 - Played a magnificent through ball with the outside of her foot to send Reiten scurrying through in the first half. Bursting with energy, in the thick of the action.
RW: Lauren James (66' for Rytting Kaneryd) - 9/10 - A masterclass. Opened the scoring with a superb goal, bursting past a Corsie challenge and firing into the bottom corner. Nipped past Pacheco and found the roof of the net for her second. Fed Kerr for Chelsea's third.
AM: Pernille Harder (66' for Fleming) - 8/10 - Drew a decent save from Leat in the first half with a low effort. Provided the surging carry and pass for Chelsea's second. Linked up so well with the front three.
LW: Guro Reiten (77' for Charles) - 7/10 - Tested Leat inside five minutes with a scorching drive from range, before picking out James for Chelsea's opener with a smart cut back. Had quite the battle with Mayling, particularly in the first half.
ST: Sam Kerr (77' for England) - 8/10- Great display of strength, speed and then vision to ride a pair of Villa challenges and send James away in the first half. Almost doubled Chelsea's lead after bursting clear, but couldn't quite round Leat. On the score sheet with an emphatic finish from close range.
SUB: Jessie Fleming (66' for Harder) - 6/10
SUB: Johanna Rytting Kaneryd (66' for James) - 6/10
SUB: Niamh Charles (77' for Reiten) - 6/10
SUB: Beth England (77' for Kerr) - 6/10
SUB: Jess Carter (87' for Perisset) - N/A
Aston Villa (4-3-3)
GK: Anna Leat - 7/10 - Had a busy first half; kept out a fizzing Reiten effort with a finger tip save, got down low to quickly to deny Harder and again to prevent Kerr rounding her and slotting into an empty net.
RB: Sarah Mayling - 6/10 - Provided the low, fizzing cross from which Villa equalised. Had a really feisty battle with Reiten which looked like it could erupt in the first half after a series of coming togethers.
CB: Danielle Turner - 6/10 - Displayed a great turn of pace to prevent Kerr getting in behind in the first half. Had her work cut out against Chelsea's dynamic front four. Perhaps fortunate to not concede a penalty after appearing to bring down Kerr in the box.
CB: Anna Patten - 6/10 - Registered Villa's first shot on target after 23 minutes, firing into the arms of Berger. Blocked a goal-bound Harder effort in the first half, but lost track of Kerr's run for Chelsea's third.
LB: Maz Pacheco - 5/10 - Dived in and was beaten by James for Chelsea's second, and had a tough time against the outstanding Blues forward. Combined well with Hanson when given the chance to venture forward.
CM: Rachel Corsie (81' for McLoughlin) - 6/10 - Beaten by the first touch of James in the build-up to Chelsea's opener. Had one dangerous carry forward in the second half, and made a big block to deny a goal bound Kerr effort.
CM: Kenza Dali - 7/10 - Fired narrowly wide in the first half and forced Berger into action in the second half with a low drive from the edge of the area before firing narrowly over after being the quickest to react to a loose pass. Dangerous when drifting into pockets of space.
CM: Laura Blindkindle (52' for Harding) - 6/10 - Involved in the buildup play for Villa's equaliser, and had one dangerous burst into the box in the second half, before being replaced.
RW: Alisha Lehmann - 5/10 - Combined well with Mayling in the build-up to Villa's equaliser. Otherwise largely kept quiet.
ST: Rachel Daly - 7/10 - Blazed over from range and glanced a header wide before equalising with her first proper clear cut chance, reacting instinctively and smartly turning home a cross from the right.
LW: Kirsty Hanson - 6/10 - Lively and always looked to drive at the Chelsea backline - but largely struggled to get the better of Perisset.
SUB: Tash Harding (52' for Blinkilde) - 6/10
SUB: Olivia McLoughlin (81' for Corsie - 5/10