Jill Roord hit a debut goal and Leila Ouahabi was sent off as Manchester City Women recorded a 2-0 victory at West Ham. Lauren Hemp opened the scoring and Chloe Kelly missed a penalty as the blues cruised to three points at the Chigwell Construction Stadium.
After Poor starts in the last two seasons, manager Gareth Taylor looked to get off to a good start as the blues attempt to make up for the disappointment of last season. Young Keeper Khiara Keating started in goal, while Alanna Kennedy made her first appearance for the blues since February. Roord started her first game in City blue and, with Bunny Shaw out injured, Taylor went with a front line of Deyna Castellanos and Mary Fowler as the blues took on an attacking role.
With the teams around City all strengthening over the summer, the blues will need to get back to their best quickly if they are to stay ahead of the likes of Aston Villa, Spurs and West Ham, while making up the ground they lost last season to the top three.
And the blue girls set their stall out early as they pushed the home side deep into their own half, with waves of attack that a mixture of desperate defending and poor finishing prevented City from a bigger scoreline.
Rarely did the Hammers venture into the City box and on the occasions that they did, they failed to get beyond the combination of Kennedy and Greenwood, with City finally looking like they may finally have found their defensive legs.
Meanwhile up front, City did look a little rusty, struggling to get the final ball to the strikers and, on occasion, seemed to want to walk the ball into the goal. The Hammers were guilty of some sloppy possession at times, gifting the ball to City, but the blues just couldn’t capitalise on those mistakes.
Australian international Mackenzie Arnold provided the home fans with the first heart-stopping moment of the half when she dallied too long on the ball and was almost made to pay. At the other end, a rare attack by the Hammers saw Keating quickly off her line to claim the ball at the second attempt.
Hemp had a good chance to score after being set up by Roord but, instead of taking a first-time shot, took a touch and fired her right foot shot over the bar, while Roord also had a chance to score but saw her lob over Arnold clear the crossbar.
For all City’s possession, they still couldn’t make the breakthrough until the final seconds of the half when Hemp was found inside the box, but Arnold was in the way of what would surely have been the opening goal.
Goalless at the break and City needed to step up a gear if they were to get the points on the opening weekend, and whatever the boss said to them at half-time had an almost instant effect.
Hemp’s curling finish three minutes after the interval was just what the blues needed to set them on their way. taking a pass on the edge of the area, Hemp’s shot flew past the despairing dive of Arnold before nestling in the bottom corner to put the blues in front.
It was no more than City deserved after a dominant first half, but it came after a scare at the other end of the pitch within 13 seconds of the restart. Riko Ueki was allowed past the City backline but, thankfully for the blues, Keating was equal to the shot.
The blues had a golden opportunity to increase their lead two minutes after Hemp’s opener when Shannon Cooke handled Kelly’s attempted cross and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Kelly was a penalty hero during the World Cup, but Arnold had shown herself to be calm and collected when facing penalties and it was just a matter of who blinked first. Sadly for the blues, it was Kelly as she saw her spot-kick brilliantly saved by Arnold.
That should have spurred the Hammers on but instead, it was the blues who doubled their lead with a sprinkle of magic by new signing Roord. A magnificent turn on the edge of the area gave her time and space to pick her spot and fire past Arnold into the bottom corner.
The blues were cruising but their afternoon was soured by the dismissal of Ouahabi in the 71st minute. The City defender kicked out at substitute Emma Harries and was shown a straight red by the referee.
Despite this, the blues knuckled down to see out the last 20 minutes and start the season off with a win.
Champions Chelsea will be the first visitors to the newly named Joie Stadium, and City will be hoping for a similar result to the one last season that saw the blues run out 2-0 winners.
Final Score: West Ham Women 0-2 Manchester City Women