Tottenham Hotspur Ladies played their biggest match of the season today, hosting WSL league leaders and English women’s soccer juggernaut Manchester City at the Cheshunt ground in the FA Cup fifth round. Though they battled hard in front of a record crowd of 1158 fans, they couldn’t find their way past the City keeper, missed a penalty in the process, and fell to the Citizens 3-0. City got goals from City and England captain Steph Houghton, Lauren Hemp and Gemma Bonner en route to the win.
After the match, Spurs manager Karen Hills told the Guardian that she feels like Spurs have the talent to compete in the WSL next season, should they achieve promotion from the FA Women’s Championship.
“There’s another two levels [ahead of Spurs], there’s the top-top, the top-four, and then there’s the rest. We know we can compete at that level.
“We’re semi-professional and they’re full-time – if it got evened up who knows? We know we’re not a million miles off and what the girls did was fantastic. The crowd were brilliant today and hopefully they can be proud of the girls.”
Spurs captain Jenna Schillaci said that she and her teammates can hold their heads high after a stout defensive performance against City.
“We’re really pleased with the performance despite the scoreline. We had a game plan and I think we stuck to it really well. It was unfortunate to give a set piece away but they’re quality players and we knew if we gave them chances they’d take them.”
This was an expected result. City are at the top of the WSL for a reason — they’re a fantastic side that’s loaded with international-caliber talent including (at last count) ten members of England’s national team. This was not a match that a second division Tottenham team, even one that are favorites to promote, was expected to be competitive in.
And yet there’s still reason for optimism. The last time Spurs played a team of City’s caliber was two years ago when Spurs played Arsenal in the FA Cup. Spurs were then in the third division and were having a historic season, but were clobbered 10-0. Still, Spurs are much better than they were two seasons ago, and this is a significant improvement on their performance, but there remains a sizable gap between where they are now and the top teams in the WSL.
Spurs are still on track to finish in the top two in the FAWC, which would be a significant achievement. They are still five points clear at the top over Manchester United, though United have two games in hand. Spurs’ next match is this Wednesday against Leicester.