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Sunderland 4 (Mead 54,57,72, Holmes 86) Chelsea 0
Beth Mead's brilliant hat-trick fired Sunderland to a sensational 4-0 victory over Chelsea in a stunning display at Eppleton.
Mead's second half trio of strikes and Abby Holmes' late goal sealed a resounding win to inflict a first defeat of the season on the league leaders, whose advantage was cut to two points by their opponents.
Mead struck first nine minutes after the interval. An innocuous ball over the top evaded Gilly Flaherty and put her through on goal. One-on-one, the in-form striker made no mistake, confidently dispatching the ball into the bottom left-hand corner to give the hosts the lead.
The striker would be celebrating again three minutes later. The striker picked up the outstanding Brooke Chaplen's intelligent through ball and showed Niamh Fahey a clean set of heels before again leaving Lindahl with no chance with her finish.
Mead completed her hat-trick 72 minutes in to end the tie. Keira Ramshaw's in swinging corner rattled the pot, but Mead was on hand to tap in the rebound and ensure that she was taking home the match ball at the end of the game. Abby Holmes grabbed the fourth minutes from time in bizarre fashion, with her looping right-hand delivery evading Hedvig Lindahl and finding its way into the net to cap an outstanding display from Carlton Fairweather's side.
Despite facing the league leaders, Sunderland showed early that they were not overawed by their opponents, starting the game with confidence and committing players forward. Stephanie Roche fashioned out the first chance of the game, volleying an effort into the hands of Lindahl just under ten minutes into the game.
However, after a strong opening, The Blues slowly began to impose themselves on the game. They nearly went ahead just before the quarter hour mark when Gemma Davison flashed a shot just wide Olsen's right hand post from 20 yards.
The hosts, though continued to press, and went close themselves 35 minutes in. Keira Ramshaw's deflected corner found its way Bannon, whose looping effort was plucked out of the air at full stretch by Lindahl. However, chances for the rest of the half would be few and far between, with both teams going in level in an evenly contested opening 45 minutes.
It didn't take long for the visitors to test Hilden Gunn Olsen following the break, with Ji So-Yun's edge of the area free kick forcing the keeper into a low save. In a frenetic opening, Sunderland would go close themselves moments later. Brooke Chaplen was picked out by Roche and found herself free in the area but blazed her effort over the bar.
Chaplen would force Lindahl into action a minute later, showing great skill to beat her marker before seeing her deflected 25 yard effort loop into the arms of the grateful keeper.
However, Sunderland would not be denied soon after, with Mead grabbing her first of three goals. The striker's confidence was on display as she hassled and harried the Chelsea defence into errors throughout the game. She would grab her second three minutes later to send Sunderland into unprecedented territory.
With their unbeaten record on the line, Chelsea turned up the intensity. However, Sunderland's defence stood firm and battled hard. They were on hand to deny Chelsea twice in quick succession. First, Hilde Olsen saved brilliantly to stop Marija Baunsic before Abby Holmes cleared Eniola Aluko's rebound off the line.
Sunderland survived the pressure and Mead grabbed her third to end the contest in the 72nd minute from Ramshaw's corner. Yet, despite the win all but sealed, Sunderland did not relent, continuing to dominate with Mead at the forefront going forward.
The outstanding striker nearly grabbed her fourth two minutes later, stinging the palms of Lindahl with a sweetly struck 25-yard effort.
Holmes got the fourth eight minutes from time to cap the performance and secure a scoreline that was surely beyond even their wildest imaginations before the start of the match.
Following the performance, most of 1,004 crowd stayed behind after the players' post-match warm down to give them a standing ovation, just rewards for what will surely go down as one of the highlights of the season.
Sunderland: Hilde Gunn Olsen, Abby Holmes, Stephanie Bannon, Victoria Greenwell, Rachel Furness, Brooke Chaplen (sub Sarah McFadden 72mins), Keira Ramshaw (sub Emma Kelly 85mins), Stephanie Roche (sub Abbey Joice 72mins), Beth Mead, Kelly McDougall, Victoria Williams. Subs not used: Gemma Wilson, Hayley Sharp.
Chelsea: Hedvig Lindahl, Hannah Blundell (sub Marija Banusic 54mins), Millile Bright (sub Drew Spence 56mins), Gilly Flaherty, Nimah Fahey, Gemma Davison, Claire Rafferty, Ana Borges, Katie Chapman, Ji So Yun, Eniola Aluko (sub Millie Farrow 72mins). Subs not used: Marie Hourahan, Fran Kirby, Anne Meiwald, Laura Rafferty.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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