The 2022/23 WSL season kicked off in style over the weekend, with a selection of shocks and stunning goals.
Champions Chelsea were beaten by newly promoted Liverpool, Aston Villa stunned Manchester City in a seven-goal thriller and Arsenal and Manchester United both ran riot.
Here are 90min’s WSL awards for gameweek 1.
Aston Villa and Manchester City treated the Villa Park faithful to a rollercoaster of a fixture with swinging momentum, seven goals and a surprise result as Carla Ward’s side ran out 4-3 winners.
Villa had led 2-0 thanks to goals from Alisha Lehman and Rachel Daly, only for City turn the game on its head with three goals in the space of 10 minutes to lead 3-2 in the second half.
But Villa were not to be deterred. Kenza Dali and fellow debutant Daly were both on the scoresheet to cap a magnificent attacking display from the Villa forward line. Having found the net just 13 times during the entirety of last season, Sunday’s fixture teased a potentially goal happy 2022/23 campaign for the Villans.
During the 2020/21 season, Liverpool finished third in the Championship while Chelsea won the treble and reached the Champions League final.
A little over a year on and the newly-promoted Reds stunned the reigning WSL champions with a 2-1 victory thanks to a pair of Katie Stengel penalties.
You feared the worst for Liverpool when Fran Kirby opened the scoring for Chelsea from the spot inside three minutes, but Matt Beard’s side turned in a display of tremendous defensive resilience to suggest that they can hope for more than just survival this season.
“Chelsea are a top, top team, and I don’t think anyone expected that today,” Beard said at full-time.
Ashleigh Neville netted a contender for goal of the season to open Tottenham’s account for the 2022/23 campaign during Spurs’ 2-1 victory over Leicester.
The fullback picked the ball up in the centre circle, drove towards goal and unleashed a stunning right-footed strike into the top corner from a full 40 yards out.
The goal capped an impressive individual display from Neville and really stole the thunder of teammate Drew Spence, who also netted a fine individual strike from range on her Spurs debut.
Numerous debutants impressed in the WSL this weekend – from Maya Le Tissier to Drew Spence and Kenza Dali – but it was Rachel Daly who shone the brightest in her side’s shock victory over Manchester City.
The versatile forward netted a brace – her curling first half effort the pick of the bunch – while the manner in which she won the ball back deep in the City half for her side’s first goal typified her relentless harrying.
“Make no bones about it, she comes in as a forward for us,” Ward said of Daly – often deployed at full-back for England – ahead of the fixture. “Listen, Rachel Daly’s not a defender, not anywhere near Aston Villa. She’s an out and out forward for us.”
Fresh from collecting the Golden Boot and Player of the Tournament award at Euro 2022, Beth Mead carried on from where she left off by having a hand in three of Arsenal’s four goals during their 4-0 victory over Brighton.
Mead is now the WSL’s opening weekend record goal scorer, taking her tally to seven with a brace against the Seagulls.
The forward picked out Stina Blackstenius for Arsenal’s second, before finding the bottom corner for her side’s third and getting the better of two Brighton players as she wrapped up the victory with the Gunners’ fourth. The revenge tour continues.
Manchester United began to stake their claim as the first new side to break into the WSL’s top three since 2015 with an electric first half performance against Reading.
United raced into a 4-0 lead inside just 35 minutes, Katie Zelem wreaking havoc from set pieces as Maya Le Tissier netted a brace. Zelem was on the scoresheet herself from the penalty spot, and Ona Batlle capped an impressive performance with a pinpoint delivery onto the head of Russo as United were home and dry by half time.
“We could’ve finished the whole game in the first half,” said Marc Skinner. “But what I want from the second half is I want us to be as ruthless as we were in the first half. We put Reading in a position where they couldn’t get anything from the game, and that was all credit to us.”