The last time Tottenham Hotspur Women faced Manchester City Women turned out to be one of Spurs’ biggest wins in club history. Playing at the Academy Stadium in Manchester, Spurs came back from an early one goal deficit to level the score via Rachel Williams in the second half. Spurs then picked up a late (and controversial) own goal winner that caromed off of the hands of Rosella Ayane to earn their first ever win over a Big Four club.
That win over City gave Spurs an incredible amount of belief that the project manager Rehanne Skinner is undertaking at Hotspur Way — turning a club that was playing in the fourth division of English football a decade ago into one that challenges for WSL titles — is achievable.
Fast forward to today: Spurs are once again heading to the Academy Stadium to play Manchester City in the semifinals of the Continental Cup, knowing that it will take an even greater victory to proceed to their first major cup final. City dealt with uncharacteristic adversity early in the season, but are undefeated in their last eight in all competitions, and haven’t lost since mid-November. Spurs, meanwhile, have started to come down to earth, having won just two in their last five. City now sits just a point behind fourth place Spurs in the table.
What to Watch For
Tottenham’s strength this season has been their defense — they’ve conceded the third fewest goals in the WSL (11), behind only Chelsea (6) and Arsenal (7), but by contrast have only scored 13 league goals, a figure that is decidedly mid-table. The key for Tottenham will be to rely on their central defense partnership of Shelina Zadorsky and Molly Bartrip, and try and nick a goal on the counter. It’s worked for them in the past, but if Spurs concede an early goal it could spell disaster in this tie.
City by contrast are scoring for fun with 29 league goals, and their defense is only slightly behind Spurs. They’re led by forward Lauren Hemp with five goals while utility player Georgia Stanway also has five goals, all scored in City’s last six league matches. Spurs will also need to be wary of City’s OTHER forwards — Bunny Raso, Hayley Shaw, and Ellen White have a combined eight goals between them, and City are a well-drilled and organized side despite an uncharacteristically slow start. City also may have the services of former Spurs midfielder Alanna Kennedy, who signed for the Citizens this summer and who is just back from international duty.
Spurs are blessed to have two quality starting keepers — Becky Spencer and Tinja-Riikka Korpela — both of whom have put in solid performances, and no matter who Skinner turns to today Spurs should feel confident they have a safe pair of hands in goal.
Tottenham also have two January signings — Finnish midfielder Evaliina Summanen and defensive veteran and Arsenal loanee Viktoria Schnaderbeck at their disposal.
Tottenham’s biggest issue this season has been putting the ball in the back of the net, and their job was made even more difficult after the loss of attacking midfielder and main goal threat Kit Graham to injury — she’ll miss the remainder of the season. The scoring load has fallen on veteran striker Rachel Williams, but Spurs need to find another reliable source of offense and quickly, whether that’s from wide attackers Ayane and Jessica Naz, or a free kick from set piece specialist Ria Percival.
If Spurs can find a way to knock off City again, they’ll face an even more daunting task in the final — beating Chelsea, who defeated ten-woman Manchester United 3-1 in the other semifinal yesterday.
How to Watch
Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Conti Cup semifinal)
Thursday, February 3, 2022
2:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. UK
Academy Stadium, Manchester
TV: not televised
Stream: The FA Player (free, registration required), BBC iPlayer/Red Button (UK)