Tottenham Hotspur Women’s tough run of fixtures continued Thursday with a 2-1 loss at Chelsea. Kerys Harrop’s equalizer broke Chelsea’s streak of seven clean sheets at home, but it wasn’t enough for a result.
Rehanne Skinner kept the same formation from Sunday’s game but made three in personnel. Rosella Ayane came in for Jessica Naz on the wing, Maeva Clemaron replaced Eveliina Summanen in midfield, and Asmita Ale came in for Ashleigh Neville, who was suspended after receiving her fifth yellow card.
The first half was all Chelsea, and their typically dangerous attack. When Spurs did win possession, Chelsea cut off passing lanes and forced our defenders to play long balls, effectively snuffing out even the suggestion of threat. Beth England—the player sacrificed on Sunday after Ann-Katrin Berger’s sending off—opened the scoring. Chelsea took a short corner to Jonna Anderson, who had plenty of time and space to send in a dangerous cross.
For a while, it seemed like things were headed downhill. But against the run of play, Cho So-Hyun won a free kick near the corner. Kyah Simon spotted Kerys Harrop racing into the box unmarked, and put a beautiful ball on top of her head. It was so perfect I could’ve sworn I saw Kerys smile for a split right before she gracefully redirected it into the corner.
Chelsea struck back instantly. Pernille Harder wasted no time in beating Harrop on the wing, then crossing to Sam Kerr, who snuck between Molly Bartrip and Viki Schnaderbeck to head the ball past Korpela before she had a chance to react. Chelsea’s dominant first half finished with 16 shots to Tottenham’s 1. If it weren’t for great blocks by Shelina Zadorsky and Tinja-Rikka Korpela to name a few, things might’ve been worse.
Despite Chelsea’s quick response, Tottenham re-emerged galvanized for the second half. The entire team pushed up the field, and when Eveliina Summanen replaced Cho So-Hyun after 55 minutes, her fresh legs and ability to get back on defense allowed us to press Chelsea even higher. Rosella Ayane, Rachel Williams, and Kyah Simon did a phenomenal job pressing Chelsea’s defenders, which allowed our attack to make inroads into their box. Notably, Rosella forced a fingertip save out of Musovic, and Asmita Ale had enough time in the box to shoot or pick out a cross, though Chelsea eventually snuffed out that opportunity. Chelsea closed up shop for the last 10 minutes of the game. Our exhausted defense looked liable to concede a sloppy goal, and it was only due to chance and last ditch defending that it didn’t happen.
The thing is, Chelsea are just a really good team. We knew this going into the week, we knew it after Sunday’s game, and we know it now. Until we have comparable talent and experience, the games are going to look a lot like this. Mind you, that time could come sooner than you think. Even the moderate investment we’ve seen the past few years has gone a long way in closing the gap. Today, we were missing our three most productive players in Kit Graham, Percival, and Neville, but we still went toe-to-toe with Chelsea, scoring a goal against the run of play in a losing position, and battling hard in the second half to ensure Chelsea didn’t run away with an easy victory.
I expect there are already folks working behind the scenes to build on this progress, but there are still three games left until that much-anticipated summer transfer window. We’ve had two of the hardest games we’ll have all season with an extraordinarily thin bench through injury and suspension. The best thing Spurs can do now is recover quickly, and get back on track against Everton this Sunday.