A superbly taken brace from Beth Mead earned Arsenal a hard-fought 3-2 win over reigning champions Chelsea in a thrilling Women’s Super League opener at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners were quick out of the blocks against a Chelsea side who looked uncomfortable playing a back five, and had a couple of chances to take the lead before Vivianne Miedema opened the scoring on 14 minutes.
Collecting Katie McCabe’s superbly weighted ball down the channel, the Dutch striker twisted Jessica Carter inside out before closing her foot to fire inside Ann-Katrin Berger’s near post.
The Blues took a while to get into their stride as Arsenal initially bypassed their high press with ease, but Emma Hayes’ side grew into the contest and began to enjoy more possession. Beth England was lively up front, but it was Erin Cuthbert who hauled them level on the stroke of half-time – firing home after the hosts had failed to clear their lines from a corner.
That setback motivated the Gunners to come out strong in the second period, with Mead scampering in behind Chelsea’s backline after good work from Miedema. The England winger composed herself well before arrowing an unstoppable effort inside Berger’s far post with her left foot.
Mead doubled her tally soon after, rounding Berger before coolly outfoxing Millie Bright to slide the ball into an empty net – though replays suggested she was a fraction offside.
Chelsea had made three changes just before that goal, bringing on Sophie Ingle, Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr, and the latter was involved in the Blues’ second goal. The Australian laid the ball back to Cuthbert, whose accurate cross was powerfully headed home by Pernille Harder.
The visitors pressed for an equaliser as tempers flared, but Arsenal stood firm in front of a healthy crowd of 8,705 to claim all three points in north London.
Here are your player ratings for both teams…
Manuela Zinsberger (GK) – 6/10 – May feel she could have done better with Harder’s goal, but wasn’t overly tested by the Blues.
Noelle Maritz (RB) – 6/10 – Helped stretched the play to drag Guro Reiten out of position early on, with the majority of Chelsea’s threat coming down the opposite flank.
Leah Williamson (CB) – 7/10 – Coped with the threat of England and Harder, and latterly Kerr, well, also making a crucial block to deny Erin Cuthbert in the first half. Solid.
Jennifer Beattie (CB) – 7/10 – Composed in everything she did. A standout performance against an excellent Chelsea side.
Katie McCabe (LB) – 7/10 – Full of energy and running, McCabe showed all the passion and intensity required to compete in a London derby. Had a great first half before being subbed on the hour.
Lia Walti (CM) – 6/10 – The quieter of Arsenal’s midfield trio. Was efficient in recycling possession and transitioned the ball forward well.
Kim Little (CM) – 7/10 – Helped Arsenal control the midfield and burst forward into the area when possible. A classy performance.
Frida Maanum (CM) – 7/10 – Ensured Chelsea’s midfield had little time on the ball, closing down and pressing at every opportunity.
Beth Mead (RW) – 9/10 – Took her chances brilliantly and ran herself into the ground – literally. Superb movement and link-up play with Miedema and Iwabuchi helped pull Chelsea apart at the back.
Vivianne Miedema (ST) – 8/10 – Has that ruthless streak in front of goal that all forwards crave. Moved Chelsea’s defence around nicely by coming short, as well as into the channels.
Mana Iwabuchi (LW) – 8/10 – Bright and inventive on the ball, Iwabuchi was the creative spark in the opening half hour. Faded slightly as the game wore on but her influence was telling.
Steph Catley (LB) – 6/10 – Couldn’t match the enthusiasm and energy provided by McCabe as Chelsea fought hard to get back into the game.
Nikita Parris (RW) – 6/10 – Took a couple of nasty bumps, both from Magdelena Eriksson, but looked assured on her Gunners league debut.
Simone Boye Sørensen (CB) – N/A
Lotte Wubben-Moy (CB) – N/A
Anna Patten (CB) – N/A
Ann-Katrin Berger (GK) – 7/10 – Wrong footed by Miedema’s smart finish and could do nothing about Mead’s brace. Made a number of smart saves and was generally assured with her handling.
Jessica Carter (CB) – 5/10 – Found it difficult to contain Iwabuchi and Miedama, with the pair seemingly looking to exploit the space in behind her.
Millie Bright (CB) – 6/10 – Solid in defence, often scampering out to close the space and give Arsenal’s creative players less time on the ball.
Magdalena Eriksson (CB) – 6/10 – Could not keep up with Mead as he raced away to score Arsenal’s second. Again, the shape of the team meant she was pulled out of position for the third.
Niamh Charles (RWB) – 5/10 – Wasn’t particularly comfortable at wing-back, and was pulled out of position time and time again. Struggled with the pace of the game.
Ji So-yun (CM) – 7/10 – Always a danger and source of creativity. Kept things ticking over for Chelsea.
Melanie Leupolz (CM) – 6/10 – A quiet game for the German midfielder, was no surprise to see Kirby replace her before the hour.
Guro Reiten (LWB) – 6/10 – Another who looked at odds with Chelsea’s wing-back shape. Did glance the crossbar with a teasing cross.
Erin Cuthbert (RF) – 8/10 – Constantly probing, driving to the byline to deliver crosses or getting into dangerous positions in the box herself. Took her goal well and was Chelsea’s biggest threat.
Beth England (ST) – 6/10 – Looked to run the channels, although the final link-up with Harder was slightly out of sync. Hooked in favour of Kerr.
Pernille Harder (LF) – 7/10 – Always a danger on the ball and powered home a superb header.
Sophie Ingle (CM) – 6/10 – Helped stabilise Chelsea’s rocking ship, allowing Emma Hayes to change shape.
Fran Kirby (CM) – 7/10 – The feel of the game changed when Kirby arrived, dropping into pockets of space and looking to link up intricately with Kerr, Harder and Cuthbert. Looped a late effort over the bar.
Sam Kerr (ST) – 6/10 – A willing runner after replacing England, but the Aussie wasn’t able to get a clear sight of goal.
Jonna Andersson (LB) – N/A
Jessie Fleming (CM) – N/A