WSL: Champions Arsenal survive spirited West Ham fightback on opening day

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Defending champions Arsenal get off to a winning start

Reigning Women's Super League champions Arsenal got the new season off to a winning start start as they narrowly beat a spirited West Ham 2-1 at Boreham Wood.

Despite being without last season's top scorer Vivianne Miedema, who was nursing a slight hamstring injury, the Gunners had just enough to beat their London rivals on an afternoon when there were also away wins for Everton and Reading.

Beth Mead - who was taking Miedema's place in the centre of the attack - put Arsenal ahead early on with a low effort into the bottom corner from 18 yards, before debutant Jill Roord made it 2-0 as she fired home from Mead's lay-off from inside the area.

Danielle van de Donk swept the ball over the bar from five yards out seconds after the restart as Arsenal, who now face Fiorentina in the Champions League on Thursday, looked as though they would dominate.

But to West Ham's credit they got back into the game and pulled one back when Martha Thomas, who had earlier missed the target after a goalkeeping error, arrowed a header into the bottom corner from a superb Erin Simon cross.

And the Hammers' France international forward Kenza Dali was twice denied by the woodwork as the visitors searched for an equaliser.

First the debutante's free-kick struck the post after deflecting off the wall with 12 minutes to go, while a mix-up between Katie McCabe and goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger saw the Austrian pick up the Irish defender's pass and Dali struck the crossbar with the resulting indirect free-kick.

The match also saw the return of Jordan Nobbs as the England and Arsenal midfielder came on in the second half for her first competitive game since suffering a serious knee ligament injury last November which forced her to miss this summer's World Cup.

And Nobbs almost marked her appearance with a goal when her curling effort from the edge of the box with 15 minutes left drifted just wide.

Toffees get sweet start to new season

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Everton only won three games in last season's WSL

Everton won just three games in the WSL last season and finished second-from-bottom, but they got the 2019-20 campaign off to a great start with a 1-0 win at Birmingham City.

The Blues had the better of a goalless first half as Brianna Visalli, Claudia Walker and Lucy Staniforth all had chances to score.

But having survived the first half Everton flourished as they got the opener just a minute after the restart when Hannah Cain's cross from the left was turned past her own goalkeeper by Blues skipper Kerys Harrop.

Molly Pike and Gabby George both had chances to increase the lead soon after as Everton grew in confidence.

Chloe Arthur's long-range effort clipped the Everton post with 30 minutes to go, but despite a number of promising attacks, the visitors' stubborn defence stood up well to keep Birmingham out.

Williams returns to haunt Reds

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Match-winner Williams spent three seasons at Liverpool

England's record appearance-maker Fara Williams was a lynchpin of the Liverpool side which won back-to-back WSL titles in 2013 and 2014, but there was little room for sentiment as she helped Reading come away from Merseyside with all three points.

The midfielder's stunning 25-yard free-kick into the top corner late in the first half gave Reading the lead as the Royals dominated the opening period.

Becky Jane skimmed the top of the bar for the Reds on the hour before Liverpool goalkeeper Anke Preuss saved well from Jade Moore's volley.

Rinsola Babajide shot just wide as Liverpool pressed for a late equaliser while at the other end Preuss was forced into a good save from Angharad James' effort.

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women's sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women's sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.