Two matches, two wins. Tottenham Hotspur Women played their second match under new manager Rehanne Skinner, this time against Aston Villa at The Hive in Edgware. Spurs’ newfound offensive freedom served them well against the newly-promoted Villains — Tottenham got a first half penalty from Alex Morgan, a Villa own goal by Caroline Siems, and the first ever top flight goal from Rosella Ayane to take all three points, winning 3-1.
The biggest news prematch was the return of Kit Graham to the starting lineup, who has been missing for weeks with an undisclosed injury. She started up top alongside superstar Alex Morgan, who continues to regain fitness and sharpness after a year without football. Hannah Godfrey also returned to the lineup after missing a few weeks. Experienced defender Kerys Harrop captained the side for the first time in her Spurs career. Club captain Josie Green started on the bench.
Spurs opened the match with a fluid attack that included Graham, Angela Addison and Rosella Ayane playing just behind Morgan. Tottenham played with a fluidity and freedom that had been absent in the opening few weeks of the season, though it should be noted that Spurs’ opening schedule featured several clubs in the top six.
Villa pressed in the opening minutes and were rewarded with much of the ball in Spurs’ half, with Spurs focusing much of their ball progression up the right side of the pitch through Addison and Ashleigh Neville. Addison nearly got a shot in Villa’s box in the 11th minute when she latched onto a through ball by Ayane and was upended by the Villa keeper before she could get a boot on the ball.
Just a minute later, it was Morgan who got Spurs their first break. Neville put a nice ball from the right flank in to Addison, who flicked it to an onrushing Morgan in space. Morgan rounded Villa keeper Lisa Weiss but was taken out at the ankles, and the official pointed to the spot with no hesitation. Weiss picked up a yellow card for the tackle, and Morgan stepped up and buried the spot kick to put Spurs up 1-0. It was her second goal for the club, both penalties.
Tottenham nearly doubled their lead in the 22nd minute when Weiss spilled a Neville cross, but managed to tip a rebounded shot over the bar by Ayane. Spurs tried to keep the pressure on, playing progressive passing football and trying to keep the Villa defense on its back foot.
Instead it was Villa who took advantage of a catastrophic defensive error from Spurs. Nadine Hanssen swooped onto a misplayed pass by Shelina Zadorsky and lobbed a ball into the net over Becky Spencer, who was off her line. It was a gift, but Villa took the chance from nowhere to pull themselves level.
Spurs regained their lead in the 26th minute, and it was again Morgan who was the catalyst. On a break, Morgan fired a ball from the left side into Villa’s box for a sliding Ria Percival. Villa’s Weiss kept Percival’s shot out, but the ball caromed off of Caroline Siems and into the back of the net. It was eventually credited as a Siems own goal, and Spurs regained the lead 2-1, an advantage they’d take into halftime.
Kit Green was replaced at halftime in what appeared to be a planned substitution, with experienced forward Rachel Williams replacing her in the hole.
Spurs came out in the second half again pressing Villa high and trying to force mistakes in their half of the pitch. Addison came close to a third for Spurs with a snap shot from inside Villa’s box that she dragged just wide of the post in the 50th minute.
Spurs kept the pressure on trying to get an insurance goal, with Morgan working hard to get her first goal from open play. Addison thought she had earned a penalty in the 59th minute after she made a darting run into the box and was taken down by Natalie Haigh, but the official waved play on.
Spurs’ breakthrough came in the 63rd minute from Ayane, who latched onto a free ball and fired a heavily deflected shot off of Haigh and past Weiss to put Spurs up 3-1.
With the match well in hand, Spurs started to take their foot off the gas, but still had opportunities at Villa’s goal, as they tried to play the ball over the defense and into space. Jessica Naz made her second straight appearance off the bench for Spurs in the 74th minute and displayed flashes of nifty footwork but didn’t make a huge impact in the match. Villa had a couple of half chances late as they tried to claw back another goal, but ultimately Spurs kept them at bay. The final score was 3-1.
- I don’t know whether it’s the new manager bounce, Alex Morgan rounding into form, or a more manageable schedule, but Spurs have looked far more efficacious going forward in the past two matches than they did earlier this season. It’s probably a bit of everything, but it’s really noticeable.
- For the first time this season, Alex Morgan started to look like ALEX MORGAN. She was a threat the entire match, running into the channels and showing well for the ball. She earned her penalty and took the goal very well.
- I was also very impressed with Ayane, who had one of her strongest matches this season. She linked up very well with Morgan, and was producing lung-busting runs the entire match, including a few to track back defensively.
- Apart from Zadorsky’s howler, Spurs’ defense did well, and Villa never really troubled keeper Becky Spencer that much.
- With the win, Spurs are up to nine points and in eighth place in the table, but just five behind Everton in fifth. Their next match will be a real challenge, playing at Chelsea this Sunday at 9 a.m. ET. Unfortunately the men again play Leicester at 9:15 a.m. so expect another delayed match report like this one.