Chelsea maintained their position at the summit of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League after overcoming an uncomfortable opening to eventually dispatch Tottenham Hotspur with ease at Kingsmeadow.
In the team news before the game, Chelsea lost Erin Cuthbert from the squad and kept Academy players Jorja Fox and Aggie Beever-Jones on the bench for the second time in a week.
Tottenham Hotspur boss Rehanne Skinner handed Abbie McManus her debut following her move from Manchester United with Aurora Mikalsen also making her first start in goal.
Spurs were noticeably targeting their early attacks down the left-hand side but the first main opportunity fell in the home side’s favour. Fran Kirby played in Guro Reiten down the left and the Norwegian cut in and played in a high bouncing ball which Sam Kerr lifted over the bar.
Spurs created two great opportunities in quick succession after the ten-minute mark. First Jessica Naz was fouled on the left-wing. Kit Graham’s free-kick was played in and was met with a header by Ria Percival which fell to Alana Kennedy whose shot was blocked and deflected out to Shelina Zadorsky. Her great curling effort which just went over.
Graham came close seconds later after being played in by Percival and the Chatham born player hit a shot which off the right-hand post with Ann-Katrin Berger beaten.
With nineteen minutes played, Graham was unlucky once more as she was played in by Kerys Harrop, turned and her effort forced a great save from Berger.
Chelsea responded with Fran Kirby after a move down the right involving Mjelde and Kerr. The Lionesses’ star, in great recent form, hit the side netting on the right-hand side.
Spurs conceded a free-kick which Reiten played short to Ji. Spurs thought they had cleared the danger, but Ji took possession near the centre circle and found Melanie Leupolz in space. The German ran the ball forward before unleashing a sensational effort into the net from over 25 yards.
Less than ten minutes later, Spurs were further punished for not taking one of their early opportunities when Pernille Harder doubled Chelsea’s lead. Aurora Mikalsen’s loose clearance was gobbled up by Kirby who took the ball down the right, cut in and played a low ball into the feet of Harder who was in space. Abbie McManus tried to head Harder’s shot clear but only succeeded in wrong-footing her own goalkeeper and the ball ended up in the net.
Spurs were now finding it extremely hard to maintain possession. This plus a worrying habit of continually giving Chelsea’s stars far too much space directly led to Chelsea’s third goal seven minutes before the break.
Harder was free yet again down the left and played in an inch-perfect cross to Sam Kerr who came onto the far post unmarked to nod home the sort of goal that is her trademark for The Matildas.
Chelsea were absolutely rampant at this stage with their wide players causing Spurs major headaches down both flanks. The North Londoners were grateful to hear the half-time whistle before the scoreline could get worse.
Spurs lined up at the second half with four at the back and five in midfield and it ensured that Chelsea’s momentum was halted in the early exchanges at least.
Seven minutes into the second period, Chelsea earned a corner. Guro Reiten’s ball in was met first time on the volley by Pernille Harder with her rocket headed off of the line by Ria Percival.
Harder had another chance when found by Fran Kirby, but Spurs managed to ensure that the hosts lead was not extended.
Within seconds of coming on to replace Sam Kerr, Beth England won a penalty after her cross in hit the elbow of Kerys Harrop. Up stepped Melanie Leupolz on sixty-three minutes and the German comfortably sent Mikalsen the wrong way as she dispatched the ball right into the bottom left corner.
With just over twenty minutes left, Ji was allowed to dance through the midfield and played a ball out to Hannah Blundell who earned a corner from Harrop which Spurs cleared at the second attempt.
Jessie Fleming had a great chance shortly after when Harder found her on the right-hand side of the box. The Canadian fired in a great effort which Aurora Mikalsen pushed away for a corner. Reiten’s ball in was met again by Harder, this time on the half-volley and it went just over the bar.
Chelsea were now once more extremely comfortable on the ball and could have extended their lead further before the end.
With ten minutes left, Sophie Ingle hit a long ball which England nodded down to Reiten who stretched out to get a toe on to the ball which Mikalsen did well to hold.
Ji then came close after being played through and toe-poked a weak effort against a Spurs defender for a corner which the visitors dealt with comfortably.
Chelsea had two further chances just before the final whistle. First, Leupolz combined with Reiten on the left-hand side. The Norway international back-heeled a pass to Drew Spence who drove an effort wide. Then, England laid off to Ji who was once more in acres of space. The South Korean sorcerer hit a super effort which narrowly failed to hit the target.
Chelsea’s win was routine in the end, condemning Tottenham to their first defeat under Rehanne Skinner. Their new head coach will no doubt emphasise the importance of taking chances against the very best sides when they come your way.
Chelsea: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Leupolz, Ji, Reiten, Kirby, Harder, Kerr. Substitutes: Blundell, Ingle England, Fleming, Spence, Telford (GK), Fox, Beever-Jones.
Scorers: Leupolz 27, pen 63. Harder 29. Kerr 38.
Tottenham Hotspur: Mikalsen, Percival, Harrop, Zadorsky, Neville, Kennedy, McManus, Davison, Graham, Addison, Naz. Substitutes: Green, Filbey, Dean, Cho, Quinn, Ayane, Martin, Morgan.
Referee: Sarah Garratt