Chelsea click into gear with first-day title warning to WSL rivals

The start of Chelsea’s WSL title defence felt ominous for their rivals.

A 2-1 win over Tottenham might look like a tight opening-day affair, but Emma Hayes’s side took the game away from Spurs in a one-sided second half at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea are targeting their fifth straight WSL title. They won their last four despite losing on the opening day but made a winning start this time. Spurs already look better under new coach Robert Vilahamn, but the Blues were just too good.

Lauren James scored Chelsea’s second goal and effortlessly glided through midfield, while her England team-mate Niamh Charles assisted both goals and was excellent at left-back.

But what bodes especially well for Chelsea, and will be of great concern to their rivals, is that their transfer business means they look even harder to stop this season.

Hayes was pleased with the immediate impact of debutants Sjoeke Nusken, Ashley Lawrence and Mia Fishel.

American international Fishel opened the scoring and her display suggested she will have little problem adapting to life in England. The 22-year-old was signed from Mexican side Tigres to ease the goalscoring burden on Sam Kerr.

Fishel enjoyed a dream debut, heading Chelsea ahead and lasting the full 90 minutes as Kerr, who will be available to face Manchester City next weekend, was left out as she works back to full fitness after the World Cup.

Hayes smiled and pointed to someone high up in the East Stand after Fishel scored.

“I was looking for [general manager] Paul Green, because he called it”, Hayes said afterwards. “He said she’s going to get a headed goal today — he knew that was coming. Her hold-up play is really good. She’s so coachable. Whatever instruction we give her, she picks it up right away. Her work over the last six weeks has paid dividends today.”

After Arsenal’s shock defeat to Paris FC in the Champions League qualifiers, the Gunners continued their poor start to the season as they lost 1-0 to Liverpool at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal will be strengthened when Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema and England captain Leah Williamson return from knee injuries. But with experienced players like Kim Little and Katie McCabe, and new signing Alessia Russo on the pitch, yesterday’s defeat reflects poorly on their title chances.

Manchester United, who finished two points behind Chelsea last season, came from behind to win 2-1 at Aston Villa, thanks to an injury-time goal.

Neighbours Manchester City started well, with Lauren Hemp and Jill Roord on the scoresheet in the 2-0 win at West Ham. The Hammers are confident they too will improve, with former Spurs manager Rehanne Skinner now at the helm.