By Hannah Blackwell
Wales captain Sophine Ingle is closing in on yet another Women’s Super League title with Chelsea.
The midfielder came on as a substitute for the Blues as they moved to within a point of WSL leaders Manchester United with a 6-0 thrashing of Leicester, before boss Emma Hayes ramped up the pressure by revelling in the fun of the chase.
Pernille Harder struck twice for the defending champions to help them warm up for Sunday’s FA Cup final against title rivals Man United at Wembley with another emphatic victory.
After thumping Everton 7-0 last weekend, Chelsea picked up where they left off at Kingsmeadow with Guro Reiten, Erin Cuthbert, Lauren James and Jelena Cankovic on target alongside Harder’s second consecutive brace.
It kept the five-time WSL winners in the driving seat for another championship as they have a game in hand on United, who have 50 points from 20 fixtures.
Both teams now have a goal difference of 42 but Chelsea have scored more overall in the division which could be decisive if they end up level on points later this month.
“I like this position, I like putting pressure on others. I don’t mind being there (top) but this is fun for me,” Hayes said.
“We have always been chasing this whole year, always been a game or two behind. It’s nice to finally close the gap and now it’s about putting Man United under pressure because we’re not in the driving seat, we’re still in second.
“We have had to find ways to win without being scintillating, but I think our confidence is really high right now. We’re in the best place we’ve probably been in all season.
“I know what I want to do for Sunday. I know exactly how we want to play, I’m happy with the whole team, the team are playing well.”
Reiten’s eighth-minute finish got Chelsea on their way before Cuthbert hit her 50th goal for the club with 18 minutes played.
Harder stole the show with a first-half double and James stretched the lead early in the second period with a stunning solo goal.
Cankovic completed the scoring in added time with another spectacular strike to help the second-placed Blues make it four league wins in a row.
Relegation-threatened Leicester – thumped 8-0 at home by the Blues in December – remain two points above bottom club Reading with two games to go following their 15th defeat of a difficult campaign.
Arsenal boosted their hopes of Champions League qualification by climbing to third after Stina Blackstenius’ early brace helped them record a 4-0 success over Brighton.
Sweden forward Blackstenius struck in the sixth and eighth minutes to set the visitors on course for a comfortable victory.
Frida Maanum and Victoria Pelova also claimed first-half goals for the Gunners, who climbed above Manchester City on goal difference with a game in hand.
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