2022/23 WSL Arsenal v Brighton – the match report

by Andrew Crawshaw

Arsenal finally got the WSL Season up and running with a home tie against Brighton at a sold out Borehamwood on Friday evening.

Match Highlights are below and are also available through arsenal.com or the FAPlayer (which also has a full match video).  Here are the highlights.

Our starting 11 – This was a little different to my prediction with both Wienroither and McCabe starting at full back instead of Catley and Maritz, otherwise it was as I said

Manuela Zinsberger GK

Laura Wienroither, Rafaelle Souza, Leah Williamson, Katie McCabe

Lia Wälti, Kin Little (C), Vivianne Miedema

Beth Mead, Stina Blackstenius, Caitlin Foord

Subs

Kaylan Marckese (GK), Steph Catley (64 for Foord), Lotte Wubben-Moy (85 for Williamson), , Jen Beattie, Noëlle Matitz, Frida Maanum (72 for Wälti), Jordan Nobbs (72 for Miedema), Mana Iwabuchi, Lina Hurtig (64 for Blackstenius)

Brighton started with

Kiera Walsh (GK), 

Jorja Fox, Poppy Pattinson, Emma Kulberg, Victoria Williams (C)

Libby Bance, Julia Olme, Elisabeth Terland, Kayleigh Green

Lee Geum-Min, Veatriki Sarri

Subs

Katie Startup (GK), Park Ye-Eun, Lulu Jarvis, Katie Robinson (46 for Bance), Chelsea Ferguson (86 for Olme)

Before the game there was a tribute to an Arsenal Legend Maria Petri, who as a supporter followed the club’s teams with a unique passion, Men, Women, Youth teams, home and away she never missed a game she could attend.  She always led the chanting and could always be relied upon to have an appropriate ditty for the visiting team, usually in their own language in the case of a European team.  She would always make time to chat and, like most others, I will greatly miss her.  She was listed on the programme as player 39 being the year she was born.

There followed a minute silence for our late Queen and a rendition of the National Anthem for King Charles III before all players took the knee and kickoff could take place.

One of the things I like most about the Women’s games at Borehamwood is that I never quite know who is going to be in the seats around me.  Friday I had the Brighton Captain Victoria William’s father, uncle and aunt immediately in front of me thoroughly nice people all of them.  Interesting to talk with people with a different viewpoint on the game.

From the outset we were on the front foot and could have opened the score in the second minute, Blackstenius being fouled as she was looking to get into the Brighton box, just a foul given although it potentially was a last-player offence.  In the sixth minute there was a far more definite last player offence from Emma Kullberg again on Blackstenius.  This time the referee really had no option but to brandish a red card and Brighton’s task went from difficult to impossible.

I have now had a chance of seeing the incident again and whilst the offence is clear, it is quite probable that Blackstenius had started her run a fraction early as she looked offside.  In the WSL there is, as yet, no VAR system so without a signal from the assistant referee there was nothing that the referee could do but stick with the foul and red card.  Had VAR been available then the outcome could very well have been different.

We didn’t maximise the opportunity, Beth Mead’s free kick being deflected out for a corner.  We were however totally dominant and it was no surprise when we took the lead in the 28th minute.  Caitlin Foord dribbled into the penalty area leaving a Brighton defender flat on the floor, looked up and cut the ball back to Kin Little who took a touch and fired the ball into the bottom left hand corner.  For virtually the whole of the half it was a game of Arsenal attack against Brighton defence.  Blackstenius had a shot come back off the bar but for the most part Kiera Walsh in the Brighton Goal was having a blinder with a string of great saves.  Brighton did have one really good chance on the counter attack and with a little more composure really should have scored but the final shot was wide to the right of the goal.

Half time and the only surprise was that the score was only one nil.  Blackstenius, Mead and Foord all contriving to miss chances that they would normally get on target at least.  It didn’t take long after the restart for our dominance to start to be reflected in the score.  Excellent build up play lead to Beth Mead having the ball on the edge of the area and she played a wonderfully weighted through ball for Blackstenius who hit a ferocious shot from a narrow angle that Walsh had no chance of stopping. 

Beth Mead got the third in the 63rd minute following a cut-back from Miedema.  Another Brighton break should have resulted in a goal but Zinsberger was in no mood not to keep a clean sheet and made a good save.  Following a bunch of substitutions which didn’t affect our fluidity we got our fourth as Beth Mead got her second (plus an assist).

A dominant performance laying down a real marker for the rest of the division.

What happened in the other games?

Saturday had Manchester United 4 v Reading 0 – all the goals coming in the first half.  Maya Le Tissier with the first in the 4th minute and third in the 24th minute, Katie Zelem with the second from the penalty spot in the 13th minute.  Alessia Russo completed the scoring in the 35th minute

Four games on Sunday including two big surprises

Aston Villa 4 v Manchester City 3 – Alisha Lehmann opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, Rachel Daly made it 2 – 0 in the 32nd minute and finished the scoring on the 76th, Laura Coombs pulled one back for City on the stroke of half time before a quick fire brace from Khadija Shae and Laura Coombs put City into a 3 – 2 lead.  Kenza Dali equalised for Villa before Rachel Daly secured the win.

Leicester 1 v Spurs 2 – Ashleigh Neville with an opener for Spurs in the 35th minute before Drew Spence scored twice, once for Spurs and then an own goal.

West Ham 1 v Everton 0 – Lisa Evans (formerly of Arsenal) with the only goal of the game in the 45th minute.  Our new Brazilian made an appearance off the bench for Everton in the 73rd minute but was unable to change the course of the game.

Liverpool 2 v Chelsea 1 – A game decided on penalties.  Fran Kirby in the 3rd minute following a rash challenge by a Liverpool defender.  Liverpool then rallied becoming stronger as the game proceeded and were rewarded in the second half by two penalties of their own, both dispatched by Katie Stengel.  Chelsea losing their opening game for the second year running.

That puts the table

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1= Arsenal 1 1 0 0 4 0 4 3
1= Man United 1 1 0 0 4 0 4 3
3 Aston Villa 1 1 0 0 4 3 1 3
4= Liverpool 1 1 0 0 2 1 1 3
4= Spurs 1 1 0 0 2 1 1 3
6 West Ham 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 3
7 Man City 1 0 0 1 3 4 -1 0
8= Chelsea 1 0 0 1 1 2 -1 0
8= Leicester 1 0 0 1 1 2 -1 0
10 Everton 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1 0
11= Brighton 1 0 0 1 0 4 -4 0
11= Reading 1 0 0 1 0 4 -4 0

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