Beth Mead scored twice as Arsenal began their Women’s Super League campaign with a dominant win against Brighton at a sold-out Meadow Park.
Captain Kim Little and forward Stina Blackstenius struck either side of the break before Mead took the tally up to four.
The Euro 2022 top scorer became the leading goalscorer in WSL opening-day history with two clinical finishes in 21 second-half minutes to seal a confident victory for the Gunners.
Brighton were reduced to 10 players in the seventh minute as Emma Kullberg was sent off for bringing Blackstenius down when the Sweden international was through on goal.
It was the season opener for both sides following the postponement of the first round of WSL fixtures to honour the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Mead’s resumption of her prolific form added incisiveness to an assured performance as Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall targets the title for a side who finished a point behind champions Chelsea in 2021-22.
Much-changed Brighton performed creditably, coming close to an equaliser with the scoreline at 1-0 through fine chances for Elisabeth Terland and Katie Robinson.
Prolific Mead continues formidable form
When Euro 2022 player of the tournament Mead strolled over to the right wing in readiness for kick-off, a wry shout of “golden boot” went up.
Earlier in the week Eidevall commented that Mead had shown the same intensity in pre-season as she did in helping England to glory, although it took time to result in goals against a determined Brighton defence.
Mead’s direct running, nimble-footed trickery and impressive reserves of energy – so familiar to England fans – remained a feature as Arsenal probed for the opening goal following Kullberg’s dismissal.
Vivianne Miedema was a persistent threat and Blackstenius cracked a shot against the crossbar not long after Little found the net.
As Brighton understandably grew tired, Arsenal were able to stretch their backline – and Mead duly profited.
The first goal was a clinical strike, the second a measure of Mead’s composure as she fooled her markers and coolly converted.
Miedema is the player whose record Mead has overtaken by scoring seven times on the opening day. Arsenal’s title credentials may depend upon the pair’s ruthlessness at the goalmouth.
Fans thrilled to see stars again
The postponement of the first round of WSL fixtures last weekend meant several teams did not begin their seasons in huge stadiums.
Arsenal are set to be part of a record-breaking north London derby attendance for a women’s game when they host Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium on 24 September, but the 3,238 fans in the more modest Meadow Park provided a passionate atmosphere for their first home match of the campaign.
Supporters were waiting outside the gates before they opened and a club shop to the corner of the North Bank – a name synonymous with Arsenal thanks to the famous old stand at their former home of Highbury – attracted a queue throughout the build-up.
It wasn’t long before chants of “Meado” and “Mead will tear you apart” went up, ringing out after shirts bearing her name had traded briskly from behind the counter.
This was an occasion that would have felt very different for Mead and her fellow Lionesses to the packed Wembley where they had played their glorious previous competitive match.
The adoration they absorbed was just as devoted, though – as was the renewed buoyancy of the women’s game following an unforgettable summer.
- 6WilliamsonSubstituted forWubben-Moyat 83′minutes
- 2Carvalho Souza
- 13WältiSubstituted forMaanumat 77′minutes
- 11MiedemaSubstituted forNobbsat 77′minutes
- 19FoordBooked at 59minsSubstituted forCatleyat 64′minutes
- 25BlacksteniusSubstituted forHurtigat 64′minutes
- 16KullbergBooked at 7mins
- 12BanceSubstituted forRobinsonat 45′minutes
- 10OlmeSubstituted forFergusonat 86′minutes
- Lisa Benn
Match ends, Arsenal Women 4, Brighton and Hove Albion Women 0.
Second Half ends, Arsenal Women 4, Brighton and Hove Albion Women 0.
Beth Mead (Arsenal Women) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Victoria Williams (Brighton and Hove Albion Women).
Attempt missed. Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal Women) left footed shot from outside the box is too high.
Attempt blocked. Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal Women) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Beth Mead.
Attempt blocked. Frida Maanum (Arsenal Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Lina Hurtig.
Corner, Arsenal Women. Conceded by Victoria Williams.
Beth Mead (Arsenal Women) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Kayleigh Green (Brighton and Hove Albion Women).
Attempt missed. Beth Mead (Arsenal Women) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses the top right corner. Assisted by Jordan Nobbs.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion Women. Chelsea Ferguson replaces Julia Olme.
Corner, Arsenal Women. Conceded by Victoria Williams.
Attempt blocked. Beth Mead (Arsenal Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Attempt saved. Katie McCabe (Arsenal Women) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Lina Hurtig.
Offside, Arsenal Women. Kim Little tries a through ball, but Beth Mead is caught offside.
Goal! Arsenal Women 4, Brighton and Hove Albion Women 0. Beth Mead (Arsenal Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the high centre of the goal.
Attempt saved. Frida Maanum (Arsenal Women) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Beth Mead.
Substitution, Arsenal Women. Lotte Wubben-Moy replaces Leah Williamson.
Attempt saved. Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Beth Mead.