A stunning hat-trick from Lucia Kendall helped Southampton FC Women breeze past Cardiff City 4-0 away from home, further strengthening their hopes of promotion.
An even start between the two sides meant a lack of chances in the first 45, but Southampton showed their maturity to find a way ahead, courtesy of Kendall’s accurate header after 38 minutes.
In stark contrast to the first, the second-half saw Southampton explode into life, Kendall showing her class with a further two stunning strikes to earn her hattrick by the 72 minute, before Ella Pusey’s placed effort in the 88th rounded off an impressive 4-0 victory.
Under the blue skies of South Wales, the hosts started brightly, Ellie Sargent using her pace to threaten down the right-flank, but not well enough to evade the challenge of covering defender Laura Rafferty, who handled the situation swiftly.
Beginning to acclimatise to the unfamiliar artificial surface, Saints began to grow into the game after 15 minutes as Kendall met Milly Mott’s whipped cross into the box, her looping header on-target, but not powerful enough to beat Grace Horrell between the posts.
As both teams continued to poke at their opposition in search of a first, real chance, Cardiff almost found one gifted to them in the 23rd minute, Kayla Rendell uncharacteristically mis-controlling the ball as Sargent strode through, but the stopper recovered superbly with a last-ditch sliding tackle.
With the game visibly heating up, four minutes later and Saints were attacking down the other end, Ella Morris driving with the ball through the heart of Cardiff’s defence before setting herself and shooting low, but Horrell was well positioned to turn away the blast.
Returning to the side after being rested against Bridgwater, Shannon Sievwright’s accurate passing was proving instrumental in midfield, which made her involvement in Southampton’s 38th minute opener unsurprising, the captain whipping her corner onto the head of Kendall, who rose highest and planted her effort powerfully into the side netting.
In many ways, Saints’ opener came at the perfect time, ensuring their confidence going into the break while Cardiff appeared stunned.
With that in mind, the visitors came out firing, Kendall wasting no time in grabbing her second with a low, driven effort from outside the box which whistled past Horrell and into her bottom left corner on 49 minutes.
Considering their lively start, Cardiff had well and truly dropped off, gifting Saints plenty of room in the wider areas to cross. Taking up the offer, Alisha Ware’s curling ball from the left almost arched perfectly onto the foot of Pusey at the far post, a few millimetres saving Cardiff from going three behind.
Nevertheless, that would become the case anyway as the clock ticked 72, livewire Kendall stepping over a free-kick from just outside the area, before bending her low effort into the corner, using the defensive wall to shield the goalkeeper’s view. A special performance from the 17-year-old, richly deserving of a hat-trick.
Despite having all three points in the bag, Southampton saw no reason to cease fire, and continued to bear down on Cardiff’s goal in search of a fourth.
Two minutes from time and their labour did bear fruit once again, albeit for the final occasion, Pusey receiving a threaded pass from midfield before closing in on goal and placing her left-footed finish confidently into the back of the net. An outcome that was never in doubt.