We made a victorious start to our Women’s Super League campaign with a resounding 4-0 win against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Goals from Stina Blackstenius, Kim Little, and Beth Mead secured our first three points of the season in front of a sellout Meadow Park crowd.
It was also an evening for reflection. Players wore black armbands and stood together for a minute's silence for Her Majesty The Queen. We also paid tribute to one of our own, Maria Petri, who sadly passed away earlier this year. A plaque has been permanently installed in her favourite seat at Meadow Park.
The game was plunged into early drama when Brighton’s Emma Kullberg was shown a straight red card after only six minutes of play. As Stina Blackstenius was played through on goal, Kullberg was the last remaining defender and brought our striker down just outside the penalty area.
After the sending-off, Brighton defended resolutely and became harder to break down. Leah Williamson’s diagonal balls did manage to routinely unlock space on the left, with Caitlin Foord having an excellent first half down the wing.
In one early chance, our Aussie forward picked the ball up and danced past three Brighton defenders, to put her shot just to the left of the post. It was Foord who made the decisive cross to break the deadlock after half an hour of play. She raced down the left wing once again, leaving the Brighton defence in the dust, and played it short to our skipper Kim Little. Little then buried it in the back of the net, scoring the first goal of the 2022/23 WSL season.
Vivianne Miedema continued to thrive in our number 10 position, making a series of beautifully weighted through-balls into dangerous areas. One such ball found Blackstenius on a marauding run and while the Swede's shot beat the keeper, it was denied by a rattling crossbar.
Just before the half-time whistle, Lia Walti tried her luck with a well-struck shot from range that was only just saved by Megan Walsh in the Brighton goal.
The visitors started the second half brightly and forced Manu Zinsberger into her first save of the night, but the centre-back partnership of Williamson and Sousa was rarely challenged beyond that.
Blackstenius continued to threaten the Brighton goal and finally got her well-earned goal on 50 minutes, with a rocket of a strike that soared into the roof of the net and doubled our lead.
Beth Mead, fresh from a staggering summer at the Euros, got her first goal of the night soon after. A neat cut-back from Miedema found Mead by the penalty spot and she rifled home.
Summer signing Lina Hurtig made her Arsenal debut as a substitute for fellow Swede Blackstenius and she immediately made an impact, running between the lines and providing an absurdly skilful aerial backheel to set Beth Mead free down the wing.
A goal for Miedema was ruled out for offside by the officials but we did eventually get our fourth goal, seven minutes from time. Mead rescued a loose ball in the box and wriggled past the keeper to get her second.
Next up for our Gunners is a European test as we host Ajax at Meadow Park, looking to qualify for the Champions League group stage.
The game kicks off at 7.30pm UK time on Tuesday, September 20.
We're back in WSL action on Saturday, September 24 as we take on local rivals Tottenham in front of a record-breaking crowd at Emirates Stadium. Buy your tickets now, if you haven't already!
Starting XI: Zinsberger, Wienroither, Williamson, Rafaelle, McCabe, Walti, Little (c), Miedema, Mead, Blackstenius, Foord
Substitutes: Marckese, Wubben-Moy, Beattie, Catley, Maritz, Maanum, Nobbs, Iwabuchi, Hurtig
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