Arsenal 0-1 Liverpool: Gunners defeated by resilient Liverpool side at Emirates Stadium

Four of the Barclays Women’s Super League opening day fixtures were to be staged at major stadiums, but it would be the Emirates Stadium that welcomed the largest crowd – with 54,115 fans flooding through the turnstiles in North London to set a new league attendance record.

Jonas Eidevall would be able to call upon Alessia Russo and Cloé Lacasse from the start, although any hopes of Beth Mead making her long-awaited injury comeback were dashed when she failed to make the bench.

ARS: Zinsberger; McCabe, Wubben-Moy, Beattie, Catley; Little, Maanum, Walti; Foord, Russo, Lacasse

LIV: Laws; Clark, Bonner, Fisk; Hinds, Kearns, Nagano, Koivisto; Holland; Höbinger, Taylor

The opening ten minutes at Emirates Stadium were largely dominated by the Gunners, much to the delight of the home faithful. Cloé Lacasse looked to be a bright spark for her new side in her home debut, though her ball into the penalty area was sent behind for a corner just minutes before Missy Bo Kearns’ probing through ball was crucially intercepted by the Arsenal defence.

Manuela Zinsberger would be called into action for the first time when Ceri Holland’s chance looked destined to settle in the top corner, but the Austrian shotstopper was equal to the chance and produced a convincing save to ensure the game remained goalless. Zinsberger’s opposite number, Rachael Laws, would be depended upon too – producing a superb save at point-blank range to deny a bullet header from Lotte Wubben-Moy.

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Yet for all of Arsenal’s early pressure, it was the visitors that came closest to taking the lead just before the half-hour mark after a frenzy inside the penalty area saw Zinsberger dispossessed. Matt Beard’s side would be left to rue a missed opportunity though – and perhaps things would have been different if club record signing Sophie Román Haug hadn’t suffered a facial fracture in midweek.

And with a physical battle developing in the midfield throughout the latter stages of the first period, it was something of a miracle that neither side had taken the lead by the break – especially given Kim Little’s thunderstrike that forced Laws into action once more just moments before Emily Heaslip’s whistle blew to signify the half-time interval.

But many fans had yet to retake their seats for the second half when Liverpool delivered a sucker punch, taking the lead after Steph Catley was caught in possession by Marie Höbinger. With the forward teeing up Kearns, she opted to square the ball to the back post – where Miri Taylor had a simple finish, catching Zinsberger off guard to fire Matt Beard’s side into a merited lead.

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Arsenal thought they had equalised just after the hour mark though when Cloé Lacasse latched onto a delivery towards the far post – though the Canadian planted her header wide of the woodwork, and that would be her final involvement of the afternoon.

Chances certainly weren’t lacking for the Gunners as the game matured, but unquestionable misfortune saw Jen Beattie and Lina Hurtig’s shots both blocked from close range as desperation for an equaliser grew. Fine work from Hurtig on the right flank looked destined to create the equaliser as Victoria Pelova was left with a simple finish to make, though Bonner was on hand to produce the much-needed block.

With the game entering the final fifteen minutes, it was a through ball from Kim Little for Stina Blackstenius that looked sure to restore parity – but with the ball nicked from the Swede’s feet by Laws, Liverpool’s lead remained intact for a while longer.

It would be the same tale for the remainder of the afternoon: the Gunners had been dominant for large spells and created plenty of quality chances, but a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal – coupled with bouts of defensive excellence from Liverpool – would see them walk away from this opening day clash with nothing to show for their exploits.

Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal travel to Manchester United’s Leigh Sports Village on Friday, while Liverpool welcome Aston Villa to Prenton Park on Sunday. Those two adversaries faced off earlier on the WSL’s opening day, with Manchester United taking the spoils in injury time.