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Chelsea 0 Arsenal 1 (Flaherty 34)
Arsenal made a winning start to their FA WSL campaign in a game of few chances against a dogged Chelsea side at Tooting & Mitcham.
Full back Gilly Flaherty was the unlikely scorer of the league's first ever goal in the live televised match in front of a crowd of just over 2,510.
Although Arsenal had the better of the territory during the early stages, it was Chelsea who produced the first shot on goal when Helen Lander sent a speculative long range effort over the bar.
Both sides were struggling to cope with the bobbly surface which made a passing game almost impossible and the pitch played a huge part in affecting chances at either end. Firstly, after latching onto a good ball from Hayley Morwood, Ashlee Hincks skied her shot over after the ball sat up, then Arsenal hit back with Jennifer Beattie released Ellen White on goal but again the ball did not run for her and Claire Rafferty was able to get back and deny her a shooting opportunity.
The two defences remained tight and chances were difficult to create and it was no surprise that the breakthrough came via a set piece. Kim Little drilled a corner across the face of goal, the Chelsea defence did not clear and Flaherty was on hand to prod the ball home from close range.
Arsenal then had a great chance to double their lead as Beattie slid the ball through for Ellen White. The striker looked to be offside but no flag was raised and she rounded Carly Telford but found the angle too tight and her shot hit the side netting.
The second half was mainly confined to the midfield area with precious few attempts on goal, apart from a 30-yard strike by Beattie which flew over. The Arsenal defence was dealing with most Chelsea attacks with Faye White in good form and Steph Houghton having a fine game at full back. At the other end, Chelsea captain Kylie Davies led her side well and Morwood showed some nice touches whenever the ball was able to find the ground, while Leanne Champ typically made a number of robust challenges in midfield.
However Arsenal did need to survive a goalmouth scramble as Lara Fay found Danni Buet with a good ball and her low cross just evaded Lander and Rafferty could not quite bundle the ball in at the far post, Faye White making a vital block before Emma Byrne finally gathered.
Arsenal stood firm to keep Chelsea well at bay during the closing stages although goalscorer Flaherty was forced to leave the field through injury. The Gunners saw the game through to grind out three hard earned points.
Chelsea: Carly Telford, Sophie Perry, Claire Rafferty (sub Emma Plewa 88mins), Kylie Davies, Gemma Bonner, Leanne Champ, Ashlee Hincks (sub Becky Jane 74mins), Danni Buet, Helen Lander, Hayley Morwood, Dannii Bird (sub Lara Fay 67mins). Subs not used: Sarah Quantrill, Shelby Hills.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Steph Houghton, Gilly Flaherty (sub Jordan Nobbs 88mins), Niamh Fahey, Ciara Grant, Faye White, Kim Little (sub Lauren Bruton 90mins), Katie Chapman, Ellen White, Jennifer Beattie (sub Danielle Carter 69mins), Rachel Yankey. Subs not used: Rebecca Spencer, Yvonne Tracy.
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