Tottenham Hotspur Women looked dead and buried at The Hive in their WSL match against Everton on Wednesday night. The crowd was sparse under the lights in Edgware, but those who came saw Spurs, down 2-0 in the second half, Spurs mount a furious comeback, scoring on a thumping second half header from Angela Addison. Emma Mitchell provided the coup de grace, scoring a 30 yard screamer of a free kick past Finnish keeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela to earn the draw and an important league point.
Tottenham had seen their past two league matches postponed for weather — Bristol City for a waterlogged Hive pitch and Arsenal due to Storm Ciara — and Spurs looked a little rusty in the opening minutes against the Toffees. Attacking midfielder and club leading scorer Kit Graham missed out on the match due to illness, so winger Rosella Ayane came into the starting lineup in her place.
Spurs had a difficult time against Everton in the two clubs’ first meeting and the match started with Everton on the front foot. Everton started strong, pushing forward and pressing high, trying to keep Spurs on their back heels. The Toffees made Spurs’ defensive line work hard in the opening half hour. Midfielder Chloe Peplow had a particularly nice opening segment of the match, showing a nice passing range and working hard to progress the ball through the center of the pitch, but faded badly as the half went on and Spurs weren’t able to find a link between the midfield and the attackers.
Ashleigh Neville had a lot of success pushing forward from the right back position, overlapping with Ayane and operating more as a progressive wing-back, but many of her attacks were snuffed out by Everton’s defenders. There were few clear-cut chances in the opening half hour as both clubs probed each others’ defenses.
Everton got their first clear chance just before the half-hour mark, but Spurs keeper Becky Spencer was able to poke away a clear opportunity from the Toffees. Right at the halfway mark Spurs’ Rianna Dean had Tottenham’s first opportunity, but her shot didn’t quite have the necessary curl and it plonked off the post.
Thirty seconds later, Everton’s Chloe Kelly fired Everton in front with a curling effort from the top of the box, taking advantage of some shoddy Spurs defending and putting the visitors up 1-0.
Tottenham tried to push for an equalizer but never mustered many more chances going forward. Ayane flashed a cross across the face of goal in the 40th minute, but Spurs went into the break trailing by a goal.
Tottenham began the second half by making a substitution at the interval, with Angela Addison coming in for Peplow as co-managers Karen Hills and Juan Amoros opted to shake up the lineup. But the opening ten minutes of the second half played out much like the first half — lots of Everton possession, few Tottenham chances.
Everton midfielder and Dutch international Inessa Kaagman punished Spurs in the 57th minute, doubling Everton’s lead after finding herself wide open at the edge of the 18 yard box and firing low past Spencer.
Things looked bleak for Spurs, down two goals and looking off the pace for much of the match. That changed in the 67th minute, coming from the substitute Addison, who fired home a header off of a Ria Percival cross that got Spurs right back into the match. Addison is one of the shorter players on Spurs’ team, but she was able to get open in the box to fire home a goal that got Spurs’ tails up.
The equalizer came ten minutes later and was preceded by a straight red card to Ayane. The 23-year old Spurs winger was upset that a foul wasn’t called on her earlier, and actually earned a free kick for her side but was strangely sent off for what appeared to be a reckless challenge in the 76th minute. How you can earn a free kick and also earn a straight red is beyond me, but whatever. Spurs earned the free kick but were down to ten women.
However, Arsenal loanee Emma Mitchell made the entire Hive crowd forget about the red card, rifling a 35-yard free kick past the Everton keeper and leveling the score! You won’t see many better goals than this in the WSL this season.
Despite being down a woman, Tottenahm continued to push forward, seeking an even more improbable winner. Everton tried to press their 11x10 advantage and nearly scored again late, but Spurs also had their chances at the death, forcing Everton to scramble away a half chance in extra time.
The match ended in a 2-2 draw, with Everton probably feeling hard-done, but with Spurs pleased as punch to earn a point against a solid opponent.
Afterwards, Mitchell said that moments like this were why she left Arsenal for more match time at their arch-rivals Tottenham.
“This is exactly why I came here,” said Mitchell in The Guardian. “To get 90 minutes week in, week out and rebuild my confidence. This time last year I wouldn’t have had the confidence to take a free-kick never mind score one.”
The point keeps Spurs in seventh place in the table, a more than respectable position at this stage in the season. Spurs have already established themselves not only as a mid-table side but one that could challenge for “best of the rest” behind Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United. Their resolve will be tested by a trip to ninth-place Brighton in their next league match on February 23; Spurs also play Coventry United in the FA Cup this coming Monday.