#FAWSL: First season kicked off nine years ago today

Treble winners in 2011, Arsenal Ladies
Arsenal Ladies starting eleven on 21 April 2011. (The FA via Getty Images)

We take a look back to the inaugural season of the FA Women’s Super League, which began on 13 April 2011 and ended with Arsenal as treble-winners, Birmingham City twice runners-up.

There had been a 16-strong application for the new first tier but with only eight berths available, the teams to miss out were Barnet, Colchester United, Leicester City, Millwall Lionesses, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest and Sunderland, while Leeds Carnegie withdrew.

Arsenal had won the previous seven top-flight titles and there was no change with the new competition staged in the summer months, as they finished top by three points following a final-day 3-1 victory at Liverpool where Rachel Yankey scored twice and Kim Little converted a penalty.

David Parker’s City took four points off Laura Harvey’s Gunners but eventually had to settle for second spot when held 2-2 by Doncaster Belles in their last game.

Both the Gunners and Blues qualified for the 2012/13 UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Birmingham City v Arsenal 2011
Emma Byrne of Arsenal collects the ball during the draw at Birmingham. (Photo: The FA via Getty Images)

Birmingham boasted the longest winning run of 5 games and best unbeaten spell of twice that number. City also recorded the biggest margin of victory in twice winning 4-0; at home to Bristol Academy and away to Liverpool, as well as Rachel Williams comfortably registering the most goals.

Everton were third in the league, a further four points back and their derby at home to Liverpool was the highest scoring match of the campaign at 3-3, but only one of seven points gained by the bottom-of-the-table Reds.

Lincoln took fourth spot, Bristol Academy were narrowly fifth ahead of Chelsea, whose crowd of 2,510 versus Arsenal was the league’s best of the season. Doncaster Belles avoided last place in the table by just a couple of points.

WSL 2011 top scorer, Rachel Williams
2011 WSL top scorer, Rachel Williams of Birmingham City. (Photo: The FA via Getty Images)

Top scorers

14 – Rachel Williams (Birmingham City)
8 –  Kim Little (Arsenal)
7 – Natasha Dowie (Everton)
6 – Ellen White (Arsenal)
5 – Rachel Yankey (Arsenal)

The WSL Continental Cup saw Arsenal and Birmingham both 4-0 quarter-finals victors at Liverpool and Doncaster respectively, the Gunners then seeing off Lincoln 3-1 while City eliminated Everton 2-1.

The final at Burton Albion was clinched 4-1 with Yankey’s second-half brace, Ellen White and Jayne Ludlow having earlier scored for Arsenal, Izzy Christiansen replying in-between. Birmingham’s Rachel Williams was sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow card.

Rachel Yankey of Arsenal Ladies FC scores her side's third goal
Rachel Yankey scores with a free kick during the Conti Cup Final. (Photo: The FA via Getty Images)

The result meant the Gunners had sealed the treble, with Bristol Academy beaten 2-0 in the FA Cup final back in May, watched by 13,885 at the Ricoh Arena. Little and Julie Fleeting both struck in the first half, with the chances of a fightback from Mark Sampson’s side hampered by an injury to Jess Fishlock.

Katie Chapman Jess Fishlock 2011 FA Cup Final
Katie Chapman of Arsenal pursued by Bristol Academy’s Jess Fishlock. (The FA via Getty Images)

Both FA Cup finalists played in the knockout stages of the 2011-12 Champions League and while the Vixens bowed out 5-3 on aggregate to Russia’s Energy Voronezh, the Gunners blew away Bobruichanka 10-0 and knocked out Rayo Vallecano 6-2 and Goteborg 3-2, before losing out 4-1 to 1.FFC Frankfurt in the semi-finals.

Lionesses take part in #FootballsStayingHome Cup

Would you like to read more women’s football news just like this? Sign up to receive the She Kicks Women’s Football newsletter