Arsenal edge past Chelsea in Women’s Super League opener
Gilly Flaherty grabs the winner as Laura Harvey's side beat their London rivals in first game of new league
Arsenal got their FA Women’s Super League campaign off to a winning start with an edgy 1-0 victory over London rivals Chelsea in the first game of the new competition.
Gilly Flaherty’s first-half strike gave Laura Harvey’s a 1-0 win at Tooting & Mitcham’s Imperial Fields in front of 2,510 fans in south-west London.
Seven-time Women’s Premier League winners Arsenal are considered the team to beat in the new league, and they rallied a spirited performance from a Chelsea side made up of many former Gunners players as they secured their first win of the season.
Both sides took time to settle into the game, with Arsenal’s passing game suffering on an uneven pitch.
But the visitors took the lead after 33 minutes when left-back Flaherty found herself unmarked five yards out to neatly turn in Kim Little’s flat corner after it had evaded the Chelsea defence.
Chelsea pressed hard for an equaliser in the second half but Arsenal’s defence, marshalled by England captain Faye White, stood firm and rarely looked like conceding.
The home side’s best opportunity came after 71 minutes when Danni Buet burst down the right wing and sent in an inviting cross but Helen Lander couldn’t connect.
Arsenal boss Laura Harvey hopes the new league will usher in a new era for women’s football. “We have to use tonight as the springboard for the women’s game to take off,” she said after Wednesday’s game.
“On the night I was disappointed with our performance but credit to Chelsea because they gave us a hard game and the new league needs to be truly competitive.”
Harvey added: “We’ve also got to keep the crowds coming – tonight’s attendance was fantastic and every club in the league has to aim to bring as many people into games as possible.”