Champions Chelsea fell foul of an early challenge from Arsenal on Sunday in a gripping first glimpse of a potential Women’s Super League title battle.
Chelsea and Arsenal have accounted for seven of the 10 WSL championships to date, including the past four in a row, although the Blues were dominant last term.
The beaten Champions League finalists entered the match at Emirates Stadium having suffered only one defeat in 43 league games and unbeaten in 39 away from home – a competition record.
However, Arsenal, whose most recent defeat came against Chelsea in February, landed the first blow in 2021-22 with an impressive 3-2 win.
Vivianne Miedema netted a record-extending 61st WSL goal to open the scoring, steering inside the near post for her sixth strike on opening weekends.
Chelsea were level on the stroke of half-time through Erin Cuthbert but trailed again four minutes after the restart as Miedema turned provider for Beth Mead, who raced away and finished in style.
Mead’s eighth WSL goal against Chelsea – all at home – followed, meaning Pernille Harder’s fine header proved merely a consolation as the Blues became the third team to lose the first game of a title defence, after Arsenal in 2013 and Liverpool in 2015.
It was a first win in six against Chelsea for Arsenal, but they now have the outright most victories versus the reigning WSL champions (six).
And the Gunners hope this will not be a one-off, as two-goal Mead told Sky Sports: “We are a team that want to fight for the title, so we won’t make it easy for these teams.
“Hopefully we can continue to do that for the rest of the season.”
She added: “[This win] has been a long time coming. We’ve had a lot of seasons where we’ve [fallen] short in these games.”
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