Beth Mead believes the 4-0 demolition of title favourites Chelsea proves Sunderland Ladies deserve to be challenging at the top end of the table.
And the 20-year-old striker - who hit a second-half hat-trick to push her to the top of the scorer’s chart - insists the Lady Black Cats have the potential to go on to greater success this campaign.
The performance was surreal.Beth Mead
A bumper crowd flocked through the turnstiles at Eppleton CW, eager to see the in-form Sunderland side in action. And they didn’t disappoint.
The opening 45 minutes was a cagey affair, with little to separate the two Women’s Super League One sides. Sunderland’s second-half display came from nowhere.
Carlton Fairweather’s side were unstoppable and forced the shell-shocked Chelsea defence into mistakes which were duly punished.
Mead hit a hat-trick and Abby Holmes popped up with a late fluke to compound the Londoner’s misery - their first defeat of the season. They had brought an international-laden squad with England’s World Cup stars Katie Chapman and Eniola Aluko plus Korean superstar Ji So-Yun. Record signing Fran Kirby was on the bench.
But Sunderland stood up to the challenge and reaped the rewards with four second-half goals. Mead was left stunned by the performance, admitting they had made league leaders Chelsea look “bang average”.
“The performance was surreal,” Mead told the Echo.
“Chelsea are top of the league and they have international players, we are a team full of Sunderland girls that no one knows. It is amazing to have played so well and scored four goals.
“We would have bitten someone’s hand off for a point before, never mind all three. It is a massive win for us and shows why we should be playing at this level.
“As long as we are out of the relegation zone, that is what matters, everything else is a bonus.
“We work so well as a team and our new players are gelling really well - we have a lot of potential.”
Going into the game the leaders were unbeaten and five points clear - conceding just three goals. But that tight defence was nowhere to be seen after the break.
Two goals in less than four minutes from Mead - who had run the Chelsea defence ragged - ended the match as a contest.
First, a mix-up saw Mead clean through in the 54th minute and she made no mistake, picking her spot in the left-hand corner before a similar finish from the other side. Her hat-trick came in the 72nd minute before Holmes capped off a remarkable night, her long range cross looping in.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Gunn Olsen, Holmes, Bannon (C), Greenwell, Furness, Chaplen (McFadden, 72), Ramshaw (Kelly, 85), Roche (Joyce, 72), Mead, McDougall, Williams. Subs not used: Wilson, Sharp.
Goal: Mead (54, 57, 72), Holmes (83) Bookings: Holmes (66)
Chelsea (4-4-1-1): Lindahl, Blundell (Banusic, 54), Bright (Spence, 56), Flaherty, Fahey, Davison, Rafferty, Borges, Chapman (C), So Yun, Aluko (Farrow, 72). Subs not used: Houran, Kirby, Meiwald, Rafferty. Bookings: Blundell (31), Chapman, (60) Attendance: 1,004 Referee: S. Hudson