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Apr 14, 2011

White revels in opening WSL win

Arsenal Ladies captain Faye White was delighted with her side's victory in the new Women's Super League (WSL) as the Gunners opened their campaign with a 1-0 win at Chelsea.

Arsenal blame pitch

• Lomas: New day for women's football

In front of the ESPN cameras, England's new elite women's football league launched on Thursday, with Laura Harvey's Arsenal triumphing 1-0 at Imperial Fields thanks to Gilly Flaherty's scrappy first-half strike.

The result means Arsenal sit joint-top of the WSL table alongside Doncaster Belles, who beat Lincoln Ladies, after their first game. It is a position the Gunners know well having won the FA Women's Premier League - which has now become the second tier of women's football in the revamp - for the past six years.

But 33-year-old White, who has won 25 major trophies in an illustrious career with Arsenal, believes that WSL glory is not guaranteed for the Gunners, in what she feels is a tight league.

"Obviously, I'm glad we won and got the three points and hopefully we've got momentum going straight away now," White told ESPNsoccernet. "The game itself was a close one - we were sussing Chelsea out as they've got a lot of new players and I think that's what this league will be about in the first few games.

"I feel we could have played better and will maybe have to adapt to playing on pitches like that. I was a bit disappointed with how we played as I know our standards and how we can play - we were resorting to playing the ball long from the 'keeper because of the surface.

"At the back, we didn't really want to play it out - and that's just not our game. We like to get it down and play so hopefully the pitch will allow that next time."

The bobbly pitch at Imperial Fields, the home of seventh-tier men's side Tooting and Mitcham, certainly appeared to stifle Arsenal throughout the game, but Chelsea Ladies manager Matt Beard disagreed that the surface had hampered the quality of football.

"I don't think it stopped both teams playing football and I think the pitch is better than it was a few weeks ago," Beard told ESPNsoccernet. "For us, it is just about learning how to take our chances and win football matches, we were a little bit naive at times but I think that will come with time."

The launch of the WSL was witnessed by 2,510 fans in what was a record attendance for Chelsea Ladies and White, a 15-year veteran of the women's game, is hopeful that the new format will help further improve the profile of the sport.

"It's a positive step forward. It was a completely different occasion and I've only had that sort of experience at a cup final before," White said. "The whole atmosphere and buzz was great, it was a carnival feel; there were lots of kids and music. It was well organised and that's what we need at each game now - hopefully that will gradually help the crowds to grow."

Arsenal's next challenge is a Women's Champions League semi-final second leg against Lyon this Saturday as they look to overturn a 2-0 deficit to reach the final at Craven Cottage in May. The first leg in Lyon was played in front of a massive crowd of 21,000 at Stade Gerland, and White wants England to follow in France's footsteps by embracing women's football.

"I've played there [in Lyon] twice before and there wasn't anywhere near that so that shows the progression, it was unbelievable. It's encouraging. In France, I know the opinion of women's football has been very similar to what it is here so now hopefully it can grow as much for us."

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