But that’s why you play the games. Spurs have been patiently waiting for their first Big Four win since joining the WSL. Could that happen today?
That’s exactly what happened. Despite conceding just six minutes into the match off of a header by City forward Lauren Hemp, and despite not managing a single shot in the first half, Tottenham stormed back in the second with an outstanding performance. Rachel Williams leveled the score in the 61st minute thanks to a cutback pass from Chioma Ubogagu, and took the lead from a controversial own goal that appeared to carom off the hands of substitute Rosella Ayane.
Spurs held on for what is without question the biggest win in club history. The result snapped a 33-match home winning streak by City and will be a massive confidence boost to a Tottenham side that has big ambitions in the WSL.
City were still reeling from their Champions League home defeat to Real Madrid that knocked them out of the competition, and were hoping to rebound against Spurs, who earned a nervy 1-0 win over Birmingham City last Saturday. Spurs were also going up against an old friend, Alanna Kennedy, who left the club this summer to join City after her Spurs contract expired.
City dominated possession for the duration of the match and came out firing from the opening kick. Just six minutes in, Hemp took advantage of some dodgy defending by Molly Bartrip on a corner, found a pocket of space by the near post, and flicked a header into the top corner. An excellent goal despite the defensive breakdown, and City looked like they might cruise.
The match was halted two minutes later after a crunching tackle between City’s Esme Morgan and Spurs’ Ashleigh Neville resulted in Morgan being stretchered off with what looked like a serious lower leg injury.
City continued to pile pressure on Spurs over the course of the first half. Hemp nearly scored a second at 23’ but her low effort just went wide of Spurs’ far post. Ellen White powered an effort at goal that forced a spectacular fingertip save from Spurs keeper Becky Spencer, who was a key player for Tottenham in this match. City ended the first half with 70% possession, Tottenham just managing to hold onto hope for a result by their fingernails.
Tottenham came roaring back in the second half with a spirited performance. Halftime substitute Ubogagu was central to Tottenham’s second half resurgence, and it was she who provided the cut-back assist on a break thanks to a through ball from fellow sub Kit Graham. The ball fell to Rachel Williams who slotted past Karima Benameur for Tottenham’s equalizing goal.
City had a glorious chance for a go-ahead goal in the 81st minute only for Swedish international midfielder Filippa Angeldahl to sky her shot from inside the box over the bar.
Tottenham’s winner was highly controversial. Rosella Ayane started it by nicking the ball off of City defender Vicky Losada and earning a free kick inside City’s half. Kit Graham found substitute Angela Addison wide, and Addison fired a cross into City’s box. Ayane leaped to try and head the ball at goal, seemed to make contact with her hand, and the ball caromed off the far post, off Benameur and over the line to put Spurs ahead. While replays showed pretty definitively that the ball did hit Ayane’s arm, with no VAR in the WSL the goal stood as a Benameur own goal.
Tottenham withstood a flurry of late pressure from an aggrieved City but hung on for their first win over Manchester City in club history. The final score was 2-1.
After the match, City head coach Gareth Taylor was incensed that Spurs’ winning goal was allowed to stand, telling the BBC it was “literally two hands” from Ayane in the lead-up to the goal. That will do little to dampen the spirits of Tottenham, who have won their first two WSL matches and have just proven to themselves that they can hang, and even beat, anyone in the league.
Tottenham may have been fortunate to get the victory on Sunday, but it’s the latest example of the improvement made under manager Rehanne Skinner, and the belief she has instilled in her squad that they not only belong in the WSL, but they have the talent and ability to make some noise.
Spurs take a week off thanks to the women’s international break, but can continue their hot start in the league with a win in their next match, at home over Reading on September 26.