Women's Super League: Liverpool stun champions Arsenal

Amanda da Costa

Women's Super League (WSL) champions Arsenal were beaten 4-0 by Liverpool in the opening match of their title defence at Emirates Stadium.

The first game of the Gunners' league season brought them their first loss in the competition since July 2011.

Amanda Da Costa scored twice before Natasha Dowie and Louise Fors added further goals for the dominant Reds.

Victory lifted Liverpool to the top of the table while Arsenal are joint bottom with Doncaster Belles.

There was no sign in the early stages of what was to come as the home side enjoyed most of the possession and created several chances.

Central defender Ciara Grant and striker Ellen White both had goalbound efforts cleared off the line.

And after American midfielder Da Costa had opened the scoring with a 20-yard shot in the 37th minute, the Gunners quickly got back on top.

White and captain Steph Houghton forced visiting goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill into saves, then midfielder Kim Little's shot was cleared off the line just before half-time.

The damage was done by Liverpool in eight dramatic minutes following a comparatively quiet opening to the second half.

Da Costa claimed her second goal of the evening in the 51st minute, turning in a Corina Schroder cross at the far post.

Six minutes later, striker Dowie increased the lead with her fifth goal of the season, a close-range shot from midfielder Fors's corner.

Fors then raced through a retreating Arsenal defence two minutes later to put the visitors four goals ahead.

The Gunners attempted to hit back but Little was unlucky with a 70th-minute effort that struck the post.

Houghton then fired an 18-yard drive against the woodwork, but it was too little, too late for the champions.

A crowd of 2,017, the vast majority Arsenal fans, were as stunned as the home side's players at the end of an extraordinary evening.

Having deservedly beaten Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield in the FA Cup semi-final less than a fortnight ago, another Arsenal victory was expected.

But the champions were shown they will not have it all their own way as they chase a third successive league title.

Liverpool manager Matt Beard:

"I was delighted with the result, although it could have been an 8-4 win for us because both sides created lots of chances.

"We were well prepared for the game, though, after learning a lot from our recent FA Cup defeat by Arsenal.

"We've worked in training on the things we got wrong that night and I was convinced when we went into this game that we were going to win.

"I've got a great group here, a good combination of English and foreign girls with a fantastic mentality and they're all winners.

"We'll get better and better, but we're not going to get carried away after this result and at the moment a top-half of the table finish is still the aim."