Chelsea thrash Leicester 6-0 to close in on WSL leaders

Pernille Harder excelled on her return from injury as Chelsea brushed Leicester aside.

Title-chasing Chelsea produced an emphatic 6-0 win over relegation-threatened Leicester City at Kingsmeadow on Wednesday to move up to second in the Women's Super League table and within a single point of leaders Manchester United.

Chelsea still have a game in hand on United and will go top with two games remaining if they win away at West Ham next Wednesday.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Fresh off hitting Everton for seven on Sunday, Chelsea were 4-0 up before half-time against Leicester.

Guro Reiten and Erin Cuthbert scored inside 20 minutes to send the hosts on their way before a double from Pernille Harder. Emma Hayes' side piled on more misery in the second half, as Lauren James and Jelena Cankovic added to the tally.

In her first start since November, Harder showed few signs of any rust after coming back from a long injury lay-off as she teed up Reiten in the eighth minute for the Norwegian to slam the ball home.

Struggling through an injury crisis that has seen both first choice centre-backs as well as defensive stand-in Maren Mjelde kept out of action, attack was the best form of defence for the Blues and they soon had a second. Cuthbert, playing in a more advanced role, chased down Josie Green to steal the ball away before dashing into the box and taking it around goalkeeper Janina Leitzig for a simple finish.

Chelsea reasserted their dominance on the half-hour when Harder nudged the ball into the back of the net from a yard out after Leitzig had attempted to turn James' driven effort wide. One became two for the Dane just before the break when her low effort slid beyond the Leicester goalkeeper's outstretched glove to put the game to bed before half-time.

Chelsea were understandably not as impressive after the interval but still found a fifth goal before the hour when James cut in and arrowed a shot across the face of goal and into the roof of the net.

There was more good news for Chelsea, with Kadeisha Buchanan being brought off the bench late on for her first league minutes in over a month.

With the last kick of the game in the driving rain, Chelsea struck once more to move level on goal difference with Manchester United when Cankovic fizzed a shot goalward that Leitzig could only get her fingertips to.

Chelsea's attention will now turn to the FA Cup final against Manchester United on Sunday, before returning to WSL action away to West Ham in midweek for the last of their games in hand.

Leicester City, meanwhile, are left just two points above bottom-placed Reading as they bid to avoid relegation.

In the later kick off, Arsenal who were working through their own games in hand, moved into third -- leap-frogging Manchester City on goal difference -- with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Brighton who, like the Leicester, have improved recently but aren't safe from relegation.