Football is cruel sometimes. Tottenham Hotspur Women had to wait a while to play their first match of 2022 after having a match vs. Chelsea postponed for COVID-19, but hosted West Ham at the Hive on Sunday evening. Spurs were the better side from the opening kick, dominating almost all of the major statistical categories and going ahead from a Rosella Ayane penalty, but West Ham clawed their way back with Kate Longhurst heading in an equalizer in the 92nd minute. Disappointingly, Spurs missed a chance to go second in the table as the points were shared. The final score was 1-1.
Manager Rehanne Skinner made some changes from the last time Spurs played in late December. Josie Green was preferred in midfield, while Becky Spencer was back in goal after missing a few games. Rosella Ayane also got a start up top alongside Jessica Naz and Jiali Tang for Spurs, with Kit Graham out for the rest of the season. Only six players were on the bench today for Spurs, with Cho So-hyun left out of the side entirely.
Spurs dominated the opening 20 minutes, pushing forward quickly and attacking with pace through Jessica Naz and Rosella Ayane on the flanks, with Ria Percival creating from the 10 position. Ayane had a number of dangerous runs in the opening ten minutes, though none of Tottenham’s attackers really tested the West Ham keeper in the early going. Ayane had a couple of weak efforts on target and Percival put in some dangerous free kicks, but nothing came close to going into the back of the net.
Ashleigh Neville had a decent chance on a half volley after a half hour, but although she caught the ball well off of a headed West Ham clearance, the ball rocketed wide left.
Grace Fisk had West Ham’s best chance of the match two minutes from time — a corner was headed back into the box to fisk right at the spot, but her shot sailed over the bar. The first half ended at 0-0.
Skinner opted to make a change at halftime, bringing off defensive midfielder Maeva Clemaron for striker Rachel Williams, Spurs’ most consistent attacker on the season.
It didn’t find long for Spurs to get a breakthrough, but it came from the penalty spot. In the 52nd minute, Jiali Tang was bundled over in the box by West Ham’s Hawa Cissoko. The official pointed to the spot, and Ayane slotted a lovely penalty into the lower left corner to put Spurs ahead.
Cissoko compounded her mistake four minutes later. Still steaming from the penalty call, she fouled Ayane with a shove in the back near the center circle, then kicked the ball away in frustration. Official showed her second yellow card for dissent (after picking up a cheap yellow in the first half) and sent her off, giving Spurs a one player advantage.
Spurs continued to push for a second goal in the second half. Their best chance came in the 70th minute from Neville, who drove into the box and fired a low shot toward the back corner, but West Ham’s Parker was able to clear it off the line. Spurs eventually brought Angela Addison and Chioma Ubogagu into the match for Naz and Ayane.
Late on, Spurs had numerous chances to put the match away. Tang had a shot blocked after nearly creating a goal for Williams, substitute Addison also had a chance blocked away, and Ubogagu looked dangerous running into space.
But in the end Spurs conceded in the 92nd minute on West Ham’s only real effort on target all match. Ubogagu dallied on the ball and tried to start a counter, but turned it over. West Ham put a long cross to the top of the box where Kate Longhurst looped a header over the outstretched arm of Becky Spencer and in to give West Ham the most improbable of draws.
- Spurs Women didn’t deserve that — it was one of their better performances all season, with the defense sweeping up everything that the midfield didn’t cut out. Up a goal and a player, they should’ve had this in the bag. But when you’re not clinical with your finishing — the story of Spurs’ season — you leave it open for things like this to happen.
- Rosella Ayane and Jessica Naz were exceptional going forward today. Both used space to their advantage and were brilliant at starting and continuing counterattacks. Where things fell apart was in and around West Ham’s box.
- Likewise, Ashleigh Neville had a very, very good match. Solid on both ends of the ball, she terrorized West Ham’s back line and came inches away from a goal.
- This was an important match for Tang Jiali, who has struggled in her first season in English Women’s football, but is a proven goal scorer in China, even picking up a nomination for Best Female Chinese Player this week. She looked industrious today in a rare start, came close to scoring a couple of times, and earned a penalty. Still would like to see her shoot more — she was looking to pass more than at the goal.
- The defense was once again exceptional. Now just score some goals, please.
- Spurs had a golden chance to go second in the WSL (with Chelsea having two games in hand) but instead are fourth, tied on points with the Blues and United. Next match is the WSL Cup Quarterfinal vs. Liverpool on Wednesday.