Women’s Super League kicks off – promising signs

THE Women’s Super League got underway with most experts anticipating it will be a case of the usual suspects battling it out for the title. The WSL may have become a polarised competition with three clubs, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal well ahead of the rest, but the opening weekend suggested it has the capacity to surprise. Two of the big three were beaten and only Arsenal ended with a victory, an emphatic 4-0 drubbing of Brighton.

Two opening day setbacks may be more important than some people think. The WSL needs to be more competitive to attract more fans and the early signs are that the England team’s success in the European Championship has had a positive effect on spectator appeal.

Aston Villa hosted Manchester City at Villa Park and the crowd was 6,700 – in 2021-22, their average gate was 1,639. The crowd was lower than the last time they played at Villa Park when 8,367 turned up to see them face Birmingham City.

Villa pulled off an encouraging 4-3 win against City, who had a big turnover of players in the close season and lost Lucy Bronze, Keira Walsh, Ellen White (retired) and Georgia Stanway. Villa’s Rachel Daly, making her debut after joining the club in August, scored twice. The game swung both ways, with City coming back to lead 3-2, but Villa recovered and Daly’s 74th minute goal proved to be the decider.

Reigning champions Chelsea started well at Prenton Park against newly-promoted Liverpool, Fran Kirby scoring a third minute penalty to put them in front. But Emma Hayes’s side conceded two penalties in the second half, both converted by Katie Stengel, to give Liverpool a 2-1 win. Chelsea looked below their best at times and Sam Kerr had a particularly disappointing afternoon, although she was unlucky to have a goal disallowed. For some reason, midfielder Pernille Harder was replaced in the Chelsea starting line-up before kick-off.

West Ham won their first game under coach Paul Konchevsky, 1-0 against Everton at Dagenham. Lisa Evans, who joined from Arsenal this summer after a loan spell with the Hammers, scored the only goal. Tottenham also started with a win, 2-1 at Leicester’s King Power Stadium.

Manchester United won their first game at home to Reading on Saturday by 4-0, with a record crowd of 5,315 at the Leigh Sports Village. Defender Maya Le Tissier scored twice for United on her debut. The other goals came from Alessia Russo and Katie Zelem, who was making her 100th appearance for the club.

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