Arsenal Ladies manager Laura Harvey hailed her side’s character as they battled to a 3-2 victory over rivals Everton on the opening day of the FA Women’s Super League season.
The Gunners faced an early setback when Toni Duggan beat Emma Byrne from 20-yards with a superb volley but they hit back strongly through goals from Danielle Carter and Jordan Nobbs.
Everton’s task was made even more difficult when full-back Brooke Chaplen was sent-off for two bookable offences just before the break.
But, Mo Marley’s side hit back against the run of play through Duggan’s second of the match before Katie Chapman scored the decisive winner in the 66th minute.
And Harvey was delighted to seal what she described as “massive” three points. She said: “These games are always tough against Everton and today was absolutely no different.
“We know we’ve got big characters in this team and we know we’ve got players who can come on and win football matches. The fact we’ve been able to get a result today
“We have great characters in this team and that is why we won the treble last year. Not because we were always the best side but because of our character and that helped us get the season of to an excellent start.”
In what was a hugely anticipated match between two of the top teams in the FA Women’s Super League it was Everton who started the brighter of the two sides.
The visitors were rewarded for their impressive start in the fifth minute when Toni Duggan pounced on the ball after some indecision in Arsenal’s midfield, and lashed home a superb volley from 30-yards past the despairing dive of Byrne.
After a sloppy start from Arsenal the goal shocked the current Super League champions into life and they would have been back on level terms had Becky Easton not been well positioned to clear Chapman’s shot off the goal line.
They were not made to wait too much longer for the equaliser and it was Danielle Carter, released by Kim Little, cut inside from the left and fired home past Rachel Brown.
Everton’s early dominance was now a thing of the past and it was the Gunners who were in full control of the match. The dominance soon told as Yankey played Jordan Nobbs in behind the Everton back-line and the midfielder had the time to pick her spot and complete the turnaround.
Yankey, Nobbs and Carter all went close to extending the lead before things went from bad to worse for Everton just before the break when full-back Chaplen was given her marching orders for two bookable offences.
After the break Arsenal had an immediate chance to extend their lead after Carter was brought down in the box by Fara Williams but Little rattled the post with her spot kick.
Despite Arsenal’s dominance it was Everton who made the home side pay for a host of missed chances as Duggan stole a march on the defenders to head home Alex Greenwood’s excellent free-kick for her second of the match.
With the game in the balance Everton were holding firm amid the Arsenal onslaught but the goal did not knock Laura Harvey’s side out of their stride. They immediately regained the lead hit after Chapman rose highest to head home Alex Scott’s devastating cross.
Everton, who battled hard for 60 minutes with 10 players, pushed hard for an equaliser but the visitors eventually ran out of steam as Arsenal held on to take the opening day points.
Toffee’s manager Mo Marley was full of praise for her side’s battling performance despite being without Chaplen for 60 minutes.
Marley said: “I thought we did exceptionally well in difficult circumstance,” she said.
“It’s difficult to come to Arsenal with 11 players but to come here and compete with 10 for a long time in the game is credit and testimony to my players and how hard they’ve worked.
“There are few things that happened today that we cannot control but I’m more than delighted with how the players have performed.”
Arsenal (4-3-3): Byrne; Scott, Grant, Houghton, Flaherty; Ludlow, Chapman, Nobbs (Fahey 90+1); Carter (Davison 62), Little, Yankey (E White 82).Subs not used: Tracy, F White, Beattie.
Bookings: Flaherty 75, Houghton 78, Chapman 90.
Red cards: None
Everton (4-4-2): Brown; Chaplen, Greenwood, Johnson, Easton (Pond 90+2); Handley (Parris 65), Williams, Scott, Harries (Kane 82); Hinnigan, Duggan.
Subs not used: Hill, Whelan, Dowie.
Bookings: Chaplen 25, 39,
Red cards: Chaplen 39
Referee: Robert Ellis
The Women’s Sports Magazine