Chelsea forward Lauren James enjoyed “silencing anyone who is hating” with her hat-trick against Manchester United.
The 22-year-old scored all three goals as the Blues won 3-1 at Stamford Bridge to regain their three-point lead at the top of the Women’s Super League.
James was subject to online abuse before the winter break and said she enjoyed celebrating her first goal in front of the travelling United fans who had been booing her until she broke the deadlock on five minutes.
“Yes for sure [it was nice to silence them],” she told BBC Sport after the game. “But for me it’s just about focusing on what I can do and silencing anyone who is hating as well. I’ve got to focus on myself and helping the team.”
James celebrated her second successive hat-trick in WSL games at Stamford Bridge, having done so in the 5-1 win over Liverpool in November.
On her record at the stadium, she said: “I really don’t know the answer to that. I just love scoring and I try and do that as much as possible to help the team win.
“It’s always tough playing against Manchester United, but with the fans behind us at Stamford Bridge we love playing here. Our performance from the start today, you could tell everyone was up for it.”
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes hailed James as a “genius footballer” for stepping up in Sam Kerr’s absence.
Sunday’s victory was Chelsea’s first league game since striker Kerr sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury and Hayes said it will be a team effort to find goals in her absence.
“Everybody has to take their turns,” she said. “Lauren took that today for the team.
“I was impressed with her whole performance. I thought she carried out the gameplan and her role in that gameplan to perfection. I’ve never seen a player like Lauren do the things she does individually.
“That was Lauren at her best today. She took responsibility in that area of the pitch in a way that the team needed. It was a real team effort that allowed LJ to thrive.
“There are a lot of complexities with Lauren but she is a genius footballer and I’m happy for her.
“She wanted to demonstrate in front of the home fans that she can step forward. She showed that she can do it as a 10 and a nine in the second half. Her hold-up play is unbelievable.”