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Women's Super League

Liverpool stun Chelsea: Winners and losers from the Women's Super League opening weekend

15:00 BST 19/09/2022
Women's Super League composite
The reigning champions and Manchester City suffered shock defeats on what proved a perfect weekend for Arsenal.

Who saw that coming?! The new Women's Super League season got under way this past weekend and it arrived with quite a bang as two of the division's biggest clubs, Manchester City and Chelsea, suffered shock defeats.

The champions were beaten 2-1 at newly-promoted Liverpool, while a much-changed City were on the wrong end of a seven-goal epic, as Aston Villa treated their supporters to a special victory.

However, those two upsets weren't the only talking points at the end of an exciting round of games that certainly whet the appetite for what should be a dramatic season.

Below, GOAL runs through the winners and losers from the opening weekend of the 2022-23 campaign...

  • Kim Little Arsenal Women 2022-23

    WINNER: Arsenal

    Arsenal opened the season on Friday and it couldn't have gone much better for them on the night as they recorded a convincing 4-0 win over Brighton. Chelsea's subsequent loss to Liverpool only made for an even sweeter opening weekend for the Londoners.

    The Blues won the league by a single point last season and Gunners fans couldn't help but look at the instances where their team slipped up against teams they expected to beat, most notably eventually-relegated Birmingham.

    Chelsea lost to Arsenal on the opening day of last season and still went on to lift the trophy, so there are certainly no grand conclusions to draw from one pair of results. But this is a boost for Arsenal and it hands them an early advantage in what will hopefully be another enthralling battle to be crowned champions of England.

  • Gareth Taylor 2022

    LOSER: Gareth Taylor

    Man City boss Gareth Taylor was already under pressure going into this weekend. His team crashed out of the Women's Champions League in qualifying for a second successive season after a summer that saw several key players depart, causing concern among the fans.

    So, what unfolded on Sunday lunchtime – against a team that had never even taken a point from City in the WSL – hardly helped matters.

    Villa, who finished six places and 26 points below them last season, pressed relentlessly and caused their visitors all sorts of problems, eventually coming out 4-3 winners.

    City lost 10 players this summer and brought in seven fresh faces, and that showed on the pitch. It's clear that there is quality in this squad but it will take time for them to gel after so much change.

    There are not many games in the WSL, though, so Taylor needs to make sure his team are picking up results while adjusting to all that is new. Otherwise, they will fall behind the leading pack before they know it.

  • Sarina Wiegman 2022

    WINNER: Sarina Wiegman

    European champions England have a blockbuster match against the U.S. women's national team at the start of October and it will have pleased head coach Sarina Wiegman to see so many of her players hit the ground running this weekend as she thinks about who to select to face the world champions.

    On Friday, the Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead marked her first game of the new season with two goals for Arsenal. The next day, her new starting No.9, Alessia Russo, won a penalty – scored by another Lioness, Katie Zelem – and opened her account in Manchester United's 4-0 win over Reading.

    Lauren James, England's latest debutante, was superb for Chelsea on her first WSL start, while Rachel Daly struck twice for Villa. Even abroad, Keira Walsh and Lucy Bronze have settled in nicely for Barcelona.

    With so many stars playing so well, it looks like Wiegman will have a bit of a selection headache later this month – particularly with players hopeful of getting into that squad, such as Man Utd's new signing Maya Le Tissier, playing very well, too.

    It's going to be a tough group to pick, but that'll please the Lionesses boss massively.

  • Emma Kullberg Brighton Women 2022-23

    LOSER: Officials

    The new season was just seven minutes old when the question was asked: Why doesn't the WSL have VAR?

    Brighton defender Emma Kullberg had clipped the heels of Arsenal striker Stina Blackstenius as she raced through on goal, sending her tumbling to the ground and prompting the referee to take the red card out of her pocket. However, on second viewing, Blackstenius looked offside in the build-up.

    It wouldn't be the weekend's only controversial episode.

    Some believed Reading goalkeeper Grace Moloney got to the ball before Russo in Saturday's penalty incident, while Chelsea striker Sam Kerr had a sublime goal disallowed for offside in defeat to Liverpool, only for replays to suggest she was on.

    Things are already hard enough for the officials, who are not full-time. As more and more eyes turn to this league, these decisions are going to come under even bigger scrutiny – and more and more will ask why it doesn't have VAR to aid the referees as the Premier League does.

  • Carla Ward Alisha Lehmann Aston Villa Women 2022-23

    WINNER: Carla Ward

    No team scored fewer goals in the WSL last season than Aston Villa, who managed just 13 in 22 games. A sturdy defence kept them well above relegation trouble, but head coach Carla Ward knew attacking reinforcements would be needed to assure safety again while also helping the club push on up the table.

    So, they snapped up Rachel Daly a week after she had won the Euros with England. The 30-year-old might be known as a full-back for her country but she has spent the last six years in the NWSL, the top league in the United States, making a name for herself as a prolific forward.

    With Man Utd winger Kirsty Hanson also arriving on loan on deadline day, Ward hasn't just brought in players that will score goals, either. She's signed players with energy, who will press high and cause defenders problems in more ways than one.

    That was the case on Sunday, with the harrying of the Man City back-line a key factor in Villa's win, and it gives the coach and her team plenty of reason to be optimistic for the season ahead.

  • Katie Stengel Liverpool Women 2022-23

    LOSER: The status quo?

    For a couple of years now, the WSL has been proclaiming itself the best in the world. However, the stick to beat it with has been the lack of competitiveness from top to bottom. It's often said that anybody can beat anybody but, truthfully, that has not been the case.

    Could this season be different? The opening weekend certainly didn't follow the script, with two huge upsets already.

    The summer transfer window followed the promising trend that we saw last year, of teams outside of the top three or four making really exciting signings, with top players joining the projects of clubs looking to upset the applecart.

    Daly's move to Villa is one example, with Celin Bizet Ildhusoy's transfer from Paris Saint-Germain to Tottenham and Viviane Asseyi's switch from Bayern Munich to West Ham among the others. These are the kinds of players who can bring star quality to a big match.

    Daly certainly did that against City this weekend, while Katie Stengel, Liverpool's American striker who has lots of top-level experience, scored twice to defeat Chelsea.

    Could this weekend be a sign of things to come? The neutrals will certainly hope so.