An early November evening at Kingsmeadow saw Chelsea take on Tottenham Hotspur in the second round of Conti Cup fixtures.
Emma Hayes’ starting eleven, as ever, deadly on paper. Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr led the line, with Niamh Charles coming in to replace the recently injured Fran Kirby. Spurs challenged with a fine line-up of their own, one wholly capable of containing the Blues. Kerys Harrop and Ria Percival charged with holding Chelsea’s forward line; USWNT star Alex Morgan, still yet to make her debut.
Chelsea opened the match with the majority of possession, a trend that would continue though the majority of the first half. Yet, an early chance fell to the Lilywhites as a foul on Angela Addison by Millie Bright occurred just outside of the box. Siri Worm stepped up to the plate and whipped her shot over Chelsea’s wall, sending it hurtling towards the top right-hand corner of Ann-Katrin Berger’s goal. A let off for the Blues as the woodwork kept Spurs from taking an early lead.
In an expected response, Chelsea then began to press very high into Tottenham’s half, centre-backs Bright and Madga Eriksson, holding their line just shy of the half way point. Spurs, to contend, compressed their formation, keeping a strong central defensive grip, frustrating a hungry Chelsea who were yet to find the target.
Between the fifteen to twenty minute mark, Chelsea threatened with a succession of chances. An inch perfect ball from Melanie Leupolz, in an adopted deep-seated midfield role, was picked up by Harder. She squared it across goal, but recipient, Kerr, was unable to connect with the pass. Role-reversal, just minutes later, Kerr headed a left sided cross from Jonna Andersson down to Harder. This time although the pass was met, the subsequent shot sailed over the bar.
Another chance for Chelsea fell around twenty-five minutes, as the ever-persistent Erin Cuthbert sent in a cross from a wide left-hand position. This was picked up by Ji So-Yun who, with a quick one-two slid the ball to Kerr, who ultimately miskicked it.
The last chance of the first half then fell to Chelsea’s Millie Bright. Build up play from an earlier set piece put Chelsea in good stead to have another go at challenging Becky Spencer’s goal. A flick into the box from Eriksson was headed out, yet only as far as Bright, who in one swift movement, hit the ball on the half volley into the hands of Spencer.
Although defending for the most part of the first half, Spurs showed surges of attacking intent. Second balls and interceptions were quickly pounced upon as they rattled forward on the counter. As Chelsea continued to press high up field, Spurs were dangerous upon these occurrences, Rosella Ayane, in particular, looking lively.
Channelling this pent attacking energy, Spurs opened the second half with the means to contest. Chasing down the slightly sloppier looking Chelsea, Rianna Dean pounced on a slow pass from Eriksson, directing it toward Ayane, who daringly took a long-range shot that fell just wide of Berger’s goal. A warning to Chelsea; Spurs were not going down easily.
Before long, the Blue’s were back in possession, recapturing that pristine passing rhythm that saw them dominate the first half. A cross into Harder was this time headed on target by a leaping Kerr, yet once again, Spencer was there to collect.
In the seventieth minute, a looming Chelsea finally managed to break the deadlock. A soaring strike from Cuthbert just outside of the box flew past several Tottenham’s defenders and found itself in the back of Spencer’s net.
Settling after the conceded goal, Spurs regrouped to find an equaliser, and they very nearly succeeded. Fullback, Ashleigh Neville, slid her pass to Percival who cut in from the right-hand side. Percival saw Ayane in space, who struck the ball with a forceful accuracy, causing Berger shift into action with a fine finger-tip save.
Spurs were now testing Chelsea and stifling their effective wide switches of play. The Blue’s needing a second goal to extinguish this rousing Tottenham side, and in the eighty-third minute, they got it. Beth England’s cross was met by Sophie Ingle, whose subsequent shot collided with Harrop’s flailing arm. The referee pointed to the spot; penalty to the home side.
Leupolz stepped up to spot and calmly took her shot. Spencer, reading the ball well, dived the right way and even managed to get a hand on it, but was unable to keep Leupolz’s strike from crossing the line. Chelsea’s lead was doubled with mere minutes to go.
The final chance of the match fell to England just after the ninetieth minute. Guro Reiten rolled the ball down her body with a masterful touch to meet England, who had cut in between the two centre backs. England managed to get the shot away, but Spencer was able to keep the third from going in.
Frustrations for the well organised and continuously imminent Chelsea that the scoreline was not opened much earlier, yet a valiant effort from a positively resilient Spurs.
Chelsea: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson (C), Andersson, Leupolz, Ji, Cuthbert, Charles, Harder, Kerr
Substitutes: Orman, Thorisdottir, Ingle, Carter, England, Reiten, J. Fleming
Goals: Cuthbert (70’), Leupolz (83’, P)
Tottenham Hotspur: Spencer, Neville, Harrop, Percival, Zadorksy, Worm, Leon, Addison, Green (C), Ayane, Dean
Substitutes: Whitehouse, Davison, Kennedy, Quinn, Godfrey, Sulola