Chelsea Ladies began life at Kingsmeadow with a resounding win against Bristol City thanks to a brace by Maren Mjelde and more goals from Drew Spence, Fran Kirby, Magdalena Eriksson and Gilly Flaherty.
The WSL Spring Series champions launched our challenge to regain the WSL 1 title in confident style on a glorious afternoon at our new ground in Kingston-upon-Thames.
Our versatile attacker Spence quickly rediscovered her goalscoring form with a wonderful first-time finish to drive Chelsea in front after 13 minutes, before Kirby produced a characteristic clinical strike to send the Blues 2-0 up at the break.
Mjelde scored the pick of some stunning goals with her first on 51 minutes, taking a deft touch to beat the defender before slotting home, and a debut goal for Eriksson with her head came in between the Norwegian's brace. Flaherty bundled in a sixth in the dying moments to put the seal on a wonderful performance.
Blues summer signings Erikkson and Maria Thorisdottir slotted in either side of Flaherty in a back three. Hannah Blundell and Gemma Davison worked the wings while Katie Chapman and Mjelde resumed their partnership in the centre of midfield.
Fresh from supplying a hat-trick of England assists on international duty, Kirby started up front for Chelsea at the spearhead of an attacking triangle behind Spence and Karen Carney.
Both teams made the most of the pristine playing surface and favoured an intricate passing game. Davison looked especially lively for the Blues with a string of incisive runs, cutting inside on the left and exchanging some precise one-twos with her English colleagues.
The twinkled-toed wide player had a 20-yard shot tipped over the bar within 10 minutes by Sophie Baggaley, the Bristol City goalkeeper on loan from Liverpool. She found space in the same channel on 34 minutes before Kirby struck the net in a goal ruled out for offside.
The Vixens strived to prise apart our defensive unit early on, leaving Blundell and Davison a lot of space to cover on the flanks, but Emma Hayes’s side appeared happy to absorb the visiting pressure in the first few minutes. It was almost a dream debut for Thorisdottir (above) after following up a barnstorming run and give-and-go with Spence with a shot on target.
The opening goal came moments later when Carney spotted Spence free in the area and drifted an inch-perfect cross into last season’s top scorer who offered a deft finish with her head.
Lindahl, starting her first competitive game in the Blues goal since missing most of our Spring Series triumph through injury, made a great save from close range to deny Lauren Hemp on 24 minutes. The momentum swung decisively to Chelsea either side of the interval, however, as we found greater outlets for our dominance down the wings.
Another typically towering header from Thorisdottir almost set up Kirby on the half-hour mark but Bristol’s new signing Danique Kerkdijk managed to hold her off, while Baggaley stood strong once again to deny Mjelde as the Norway international headed low.
It did not take much longer for either attacker to convert chances into goals. Kirby stole possession on the edge of the penalty area on 40 minutes and there was no stopping Super Fran as she raced towards goal and drove home to cap an impressive performance.
It was the perfect way to bring the first half to a conclusion, and within five minutes of the restart our lead was further extended. Mjelde showed the composure necessary to take an important touch for the third goal 11 minutes afterwards when Carney teed her up with her head. She nearly made it 4-0 to the home side after more good work from Davison but could not quite unleash the shot.
Eriksson, often touted for her threat from set pieces, notched a simple header at the near post to seal a dream start both for her and for Chelsea at the beginning of a new campaign at their new home.
There was a second for Mjelde shortly afterwards as she benefited from another incisive run by Davison for a simple finish and Flaherty completed the rout late on with a tap-in for the sixth goal.
Chelsea make the trip to Sunderland on Saturday for our first away fixture of the season. Our next game at Kingsmeadow will be against Bayern Munich in the first knockout round of the Women’s Champions League, which takes place at 7pm on Wednesday 4 October.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Lindahl; Thorisdottir, Flaherty, Eriksson; Blundell (Cuthbert 69), Chapman (c), Mjelde, Davison; Spence (Ji 60), Carney; Kirby (Aluko 78)
Unused subs Spencer, Bright, Rafferty
Scorers Spence 13, Kirby 40, Mjelde 51, 86, Eriksson 79, Flaherty 90
Bristol City Baggaley, Dykes, Brown, Kerkdijk, Arthur, Humphrey, Daniels (Woodham 82), Hemp, Estcourt, Biesmans (P Wilson 71), Turner
Unused subs Fergusson, Allen, E Wilson
By Danny Wittenberg