Tottenham Hotspur Women bounced straight back from their opening week defeat at defending champions Chelsea, hosting promoted side Bristol City at Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road on Sunday. Tottenham scored three goals in the first half, gave one back thanks to a penalty, but rolled to a comfortable 3-1 win over the Robins, their first win of the WSL campaign.
Tottenham got a debut goals from new signings Olga Ahtinen and Martha Thomas, and another from fellow Finn Eveliina Summanen in the victory. Bristol pulled one back thanks to a second half penalty from Amalie Thestrup.
Spurs were unchanged from their starting lineup against Chelsea, with Martha Thomas leading the line alongside Grace Clinton and Celin Bizet, a midfield three of Olga Ahtinen, Drew Spence, and Eveliina Summanen, and Angharad James (strangely) starting at right back.
Tottenham showed some early signs of intent inside 2 minutes when Ashleigh Neville launched a long ball into the box for Bizet who took the ball down but wasn’t able to get a shot off before it was hacked away. Spurs started off brightly but started to let Bristol back into the match within the opening 15 minutes.
Bristol’s first shot was the first for either side and came in the 8th minute after Chloe Mustaki got into a pocket of space on a counterattack and launched a shot that forced a diving save from Becky Spencer. It was one of the few times Spencer was called into action all day.
Spurs nearly opened their account in the 11th minute thanks to some lovely one-two football between Ahtinen and Martha Thomas. Ahtinen fed Thomas who immediately cut the ball back to her teammate. Ahtinen got the shot off, but pulled it wide.
Throughout the first half, Spurs poured forward in waves, testing Bristol City’s defense with through balls from Ahtinen and Spence, and crosses from Neville and Bizet.
Although they threatened numerous times, Tottenham’s goals came in a flurry towards the back end of the half. Ahtinen opened the scoring with a lovely 25-yard strike from the top of the box, after a pass from her international teammate Summanen. There was plenty of power behind the shot; Bristol keeper Kaylan Marckese guessed correctly but couldn’t keep it out and Spurs led 1-0.
Celin Bizet nearly picked up a second two minutes later after Bizet picked off a lazy pass from Bristol City’s defensive line, but she couldn’t get a clean connection on the ball and fired the chance high.
It was Thomas who doubled Spurs’ lead in hilarious fashion in the 35th minute. Thomas jogged towards Marckese in what looked like a routine goal kick, but Marckese’s clearance caromed off of Maratha’s back and dribbled into the back of the net to put Tottenham up 2-0.
Bristol City nearly pulled one back through Carrie Jones after a lucky deflection fell right at her feet inside five yards, but she put her shot high and over the bar. Tottenham gave up a couple of late corners to Bristol in extra time, before Summanen won a free kick at the edge of the area after dribbling past two Britol City defenders. Summanen took the free kick herself and rifled it into the top corner to put Spurs up 3-0 with essentially the last kick of the half.
The visitors came out pushing high and attempting to snatch a quick goal to get back in the match. They very nearly did — Bristol City nearly found the back of the net through Napier from a cross into the box, but her flicked header flew just wide of the post.
Homegrown hero Jessica Naz was Tottenham’s first sub at 60’; she came on for Grace Clinton, the same player sub as against Chelsea. Naz was bright against the Blues, and her first touch vs. Bristol City was a threatening cross to the back post towards Bizet.
Bristol City finally got their goal thanks to an unlucky handball against Summanen. The match official was quick to make the call which was probably the right one; Eveliina’s arm was raised, even if it came off a deflection from a short distance away. Thestrup slotted the ball home from the spot to make the score 3-1, but that was essentially the visitor’s last big chance of the match.
Drew Spence had a decent look at 67’ curling a shot into the area towards Martha Thomas, but a Bristol defender managed to get a boot on the ball and cut it away. Spence put another delicious ball into the box shortly after, but Martha Thomas couldn’t get her header on target and the ball whistled wide of the post. Jess Naz had another mazy run through midfield before ripping a 30 yard shot that forced a diving save from Marckese.
Spurs took their foot off the ball slightly while up two goals. Kit Graham was a late substitute for Spence and made an immediate impact, first curling a free kick into the box and shortly after squaring a ball across the face of goal for Martha Thomas that a Bristol City defender nearly put into their own net.
Spurs had one final big chance in the 83rd minute after Neville put a low shot from the top of the D that went just wide of the near post. Ria Percival and Rosella Ayane were late subs for Tottenham as the match wound down; Bristol City never really got another opportunity to cut into Tottenham’s lead, and Spurs finished what felt like a comfortable 3-1 home win.
- Spurs scored goals! And were fun to watch! It was nice!
- You can really see what a difference Robert Vilhamn has made in the way Spurs play. They attack in waves, press high, pass short and direct, and try to hit quickly whenever they regain the ball. This is a team already playing with confidence and belief, and it shows.
- Celin Bizet looked very bright in this match and was clearly one of the focal points for the attack, especially early. She’s still struggling with her final ball but she’s getting into good positions.
- Ahtinen’s goal was just a lovely blast from 25 yards out. She’s made a real impact alongside her Finland teammate Summanen thus far this season.
- Both Molly Bartrip and Luana Bühler look very comfortable with the ball in possession, which adds a dimension to Tottenham’s attack. Both are going to be instrumental in playing out of the back and getting the ball to the midfielders to start attacks.
- Grace Clinton looked interesting, but I feel like she’s wasted in a wide position. She has a tendency to cut inside with the ball (much like Dejan Kulusevski) and it feels like there are better options on the flanks. I would like to see what Grace can do playing centrally, but that midfield three of Ahtinen, Summanen, and Spence is already working well together, so...
- We’re only two games in but it appears clear that Vilahamn is asking Ash Neville to play as a much more traditional fullback compared to last season. Vilahamn’s fullbacks are advanced, but even so Ash is not getting forward nearly as much as last season. That said, she has been given license to put crosses in for the forward line to run into and she got a few long shots away that tested the Bristol keeper.
- I’m still not sure why Angharad James, not a natural fullback, is being preferred to Asmita Ale. I can only assume it has something to do with either James’ defensive ability (her natural role is a defensive midfielder) or her passing, but Asmita has a flair for getting forward and against teams like Bristol who don’t get forward as much I’d have liked to see Ale given a chance.
- In their first two matches Spurs have played a team expected to win the title, and a team likely to face relegation and played quite well in both. I’m starting to think I haven’t given Robert Vilahamn enough credit for the offseason work.
- China international striker Zhang Linyan was on the bench after only recently joining the side. I’m very curious about what she can bring to the team, especially while Beth England is still recovering.
- Tottenham’s next match is in the FA Cup, tomorrow afternoon vs. Reading.