Alessia Russo hits hat-trick as Manchester United sweep aside Leicester

Alessia Russo struck a hat-trick as Manchester United thrashed Leicester 5-1 to move four points clear at the top of the Women’s Super League.

England striker Russo’s first-half double put United in control and she added her third early in the second period soon after Remy Siemsen had reduced the deficit for the Foxes.

Russo then set up Leah Galton for United’s fourth and substitute Lucia Garcia added their fifth as Marc Skinner’s side cruised to their 11th league win from 14 matches this season to keep the pressure on reigning champions Chelsea.

Chelsea, who face London rivals Arsenal in the League Cup final at Selhurst Park on Sunday afternoon, have two games in hand and play United at Kingsmeadow next weekend.

Russo, out of contract in the summer, has scored eight goals in 12 league appearances this season and United are hoping she signs a new deal after turning down two world-record bids from Arsenal for the 24-year-old last month.

Manchester City’s Bunny Shaw also notched a hat-trick as Gareth Taylor’s side hit back to beat Tottenham 3-1 and climbed into second place, three points behind United.

Jamaica forward Shaw cancelled out Bizet Ildhusoy’s opener for Tottenham in first-half stoppage time and converted a penalty soon after the restart after Ash Neville’s challenge on Chloe Kelly.

Shaw, who scored four goals in City’s recent 8-1 FA Cup win against Bristol City, sealed her hat-trick with a late third – her 13th league goal of the season – as victory was ensured in boss Taylor’s 100th game in charge.

Aston Villa closed the gap on fourth-placed Arsenal to three points after extending their unbeaten league run to five matches with a 2-0 win at Everton.

Kenza Dali gave Villa an early lead and Everton defender Megan Finnigan’s own goal with just over 20 minutes remaining ensured the Merseysiders fell to a sixth league defeat of the season.

Rachel Rowe fired a late winner as Reading beat West Ham 2-1 at home to climb from second-bottom up to ninth.

Charlie Wellings’ second-half opener for Reading was cancelled out by France forward Viviane Asseyi’s fifth league goal of the season, but Rowe’s fine late finish edged them back in front.

West Ham hit the woodwork in the closing stages through Grace Fisk’s header, but the Royals held on to leapfrog Brighton and Tottenham in the bottom half of the table.