Women's football weekend: New Women's Super League attendance records set

More than 70,000 people turned out to celebrate women's football weekend on what was described as an "absolutely momentous" day for the Women's Super League.

Two WSL attendance records were broken on Sunday, as four out of six fixtures were played at men's Premier League and Championship grounds.

Arsenal's victory over north London rivals Tottenham was watched by a record 38,262 fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, while Anfield, hosting its first-ever WSL match, welcomed 23,500 supporters for the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton.

Chelsea's home game against Manchester United at Kingsmeadow also saw a record crowd - the 4,790 sell-out was a new best for a WSL game held at a non-Premier League stadium.

"This is the progression of women's football," Tottenham co-head coach Karen Hills told BBC Sport. "If I'm honest, it shouldn't be a moment - it should be something that hopefully becomes the norm.

"It's absolutely momentous for those women. We want to see women playing in these big stadiums and we want to see these big crowds coming.

"Hopefully it won't just be an occasion - it will be the norm for women's football."

'We can get even bigger crowds'

Arsenal team pose
Arsenal, who won the Women's Super League last season, remain one point behind leaders Chelsea

The attendance at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium far surpassed the 31,213 that watched the Manchester derby on the season's opening weekend - and was more than seven times higher than the record of 5,265 which stood prior to this term.

The north London derby, which Arsenal won 2-0 thanks to goals in the final 25 minutes from Kim Little and Vivianne Miedema, was the marquee game of the Football Association's inaugural women's football weekend.

"It was an amazing occasion, a special occasion," said Arsenal boss Joe Montemurro. "Credit to those planning it for playing on a day when there are not any Premier League games.

"With good planning and good organisation, there are the opportunities for us to get even bigger crowds.

"It was great to be part of something and you can really start to the see the ascendancy of where the game is going.

"To have the passion, to have the rivalry, to have that tribalism, it was fantastic."

'It felt more like 50,000 at Anfield'

Liverpool manager Vicky Jepson described the match at Anfield as a "big celebration" - despite her side losing 1-0 after Lucy Graham's strike on the stroke of half-time.

"It was fantastic," said Jepson. "They applauded every pass, every tackle. Every female player deserves that across the country.

"I'm really pleased we got to show that in one of the most famous stadiums in the country. It's absolutely the future of the women's game. There's more to come I'm sure."

Willie Kirk, whose side moved up to fourth in the WSL table, said they took another step in "moving the game in the right direction".

"I can't talk about other stadiums but the atmosphere here was fantastic," he said. "I felt like there were 50,000 people there.

"It's a good weekend for women's football."

What else happened in the WSL on Sunday?

As well as two attendance records being broken, the WSL had two different leaders on Sunday afternoon as Manchester City replaced Chelsea at the summit for the briefest of spells.

City's stay at the top looked like it might be more permanent an hour into Chelsea's game at home to Manchester United, with the newly-promoted visitors holding the Blues to a stalemate.

However, Maren Mjelde's contentious penalty, after Millie Turner was judged to have fouled Fran Kirby, put Chelsea back on top although they needed Ann-Katrin Berger's fine late save from Ella Toone to preserve victory.

City had earlier thrashed West Ham United 5-0 in the lunchtime kick-off, Tessa Wullaert's second-half strike adding to first-half efforts from Ellen White, Lauren Hemp and a double from Georgia Stanway, who was sent off late on.

Chelsea remain a point above both City and Arsenal.

Brighton beat Birmingham 3-0 to record their first WSL victory of the season, leaving Bristol City - who came from 2-0 and 3-1 down to draw 3-3 at Reading - and bottom side Liverpool as the only two sides without a league win.

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women's sport available to watch across the BBC in 2019, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women's sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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