Ella Mortimer’s late strike wasn’t enough to prevent the Belles from defeat in their home opener, as Leeds United took all three points with a 3-1 win at the Iqbal Poultry Stadium.
Midfielder Mortimer had been introduced as a half time substitute in Thorne with the hosts trailing to a Paige Williams goal. But before the Belles could hit back, Kathryn Smith headed home a second and Williams herself added the third.
Managerial Duo Sam Winch and Alexandre Brito Nogueira made three changes to their side from last Sunday’s cup exit at Wolves with Arianne Parnham, Izzy Gigg and Lauren Breen all coming into the starting 11.
The Belles flew out of the traps and could have been ahead within just 20 seconds as Gigg played Parnham through on goal, but the winger saw her low drive held by United goalkeeper Carrie Simpson.
At the other end, Ellie Sharpe then clung onto a snapshot from Jess Rousseau before Williams opened the scoring on 12 minutes. Striker Rousseau picked her out in space with a through ball which Holly Housley came inches away from clearing, and forward Williams did the rest with a cool finish one-on-one.
Following a quiet spell, Macy Ellis then hammered over on the volley for the visitors at point-blank range having connected with Sarah Danby’s cross, while Jasmine Saxton brought Simpson into action oncemore for the Belles with a low strike of her own.
Rousseau, Olivia Smart and Danby all went close for Leeds, but it remained 1-0 come the break.
A quiet start to the second 45 ensued before Sharpe pulled off an impressive reaction stop to deny Rousseau, tipping her rasping strike from the edge of the area over the bar.
But from that corner, Leeds doubled their advantage, recycling the ball out wide and seeing Izzy Elliott pick out Smith to head home from a matter of yards out.
Another smart save saw Sharpe keep out Ellis, before Williams added the third, finding space from range to take aim and pick out the bottom corner.
The Belles continued to battle hard, and were rewarded five minutes from time when Mortimer guided home Sophie Brown’s deflected low cross from just inside the area.
There’s more match action for Winch and Nogueira’s side on Thursday, September 7 with a trip to face Hull City at the Easy Buy Stadium in Barton (7.45pm KO).
Belles: Sharpe, Johnson (Morris ’78), Rattenbury, J. Tugby-Andrew, Housley, Parnham (Yates ’81), McWilliams (Abadi ’44), Gigg (Mortimer HT), L. Tugby-Andrew, Saxton, Breen (Brown ’63)
Leeds: Simpson, Jakeman (S. Smith ’90), Smart, Elliott, Pizzarello, Whitham (Price ’78), K. Smith, Danby, Williams, Rousseau, Ellis (Sykes ’78)