This is not the same Tottenham Hotspur Women team as last season. Playing away to Brighton & Hove Albion Women in the WSL and at the American Express Stadium, Spurs got punched in the mouth by an early goal from Brighton striker Elizabeth Terland, only to earn an equalizer from Martha Thomas at the stroke of halftime. Tottenham roared back in the second half thanks to a long-range thunderbolt goal from Grace Clinton and a deflected finish from Ria Percival to take all three points on the south coast, with the final score 1-3.
Robert Vilahamn set up Tottenham the same way he has for all of Tottenham’s league matches thus far: a front three of Clinton, Thomas, and Celin Bizet, a midfield three of Drew Spence and Finland internationals Olga Ahtinen and Eveliina Summanen, a back line of Molly Bartrip and Luana Bühler with Ash Neville and Angharad James at fullbacks, and Drew Spence in goal.
Tottenham dominated possession for most of the match and kept Brighton pinned back except for the occasional counterattack in the first half, but it was the hosts who struck first, thanks to a headed goal from Terland off of a corner kick. Spurs left Terland inexplicably unmarked at the near post and she flicked a header across goal and past keeper Becky Spencer to open the scoring.
Terland was a bit of a thorn in Tottenham’s side in that first half, with a couple of shots towards Spencer on the rare times that Brighton got into space, though Becky was never seriously troubled in this match apart from the Seagulls’ goal. Tottenham, by contrast, controlled the game and had the bulk of the ball.
But having the ball doesn’t always mean that chances were forthcoming. Tottenham spent a lot of time with a numerical advantage in the box but often couldn’t get the ball to the attackers in dangerous areas to create shots.
Spurs breakthrough came just moments before halftime. Drew Spence fired a ball from the top of the area that plonked off the crossbar and the rebound fell right to Martha Thomas. She drove her shot into the ground and then past Evrard who got a hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it out of the net. The match went to halftime with the score level at 1-1.
Brighton came out pushing higher and pressing higher up the pitch to try and snatch a go-ahead goal and the game was fairly even until midway through the second half. Substitute Jessica Naz changed the match, as she has in Spurs’ past couple of games, using her speed to stretch Brighton’s back line. Her sub moved Clinton from the wing to a more central role and she took advantage of it, leathering a shot from about 30 yards into the top corner past the Brighton keeper to put Spurs in front. Both Thomas and Clinton were eventually subbed off.
Brighton changed tactics late in the half down a goal, pressing super high and trying to keep Spurs pinned back in their own area. It worked for a while with Tottenham giving up a few corners and unable to get out of their own half for about ten minutes.
The third goal was the result of a ton of work from Jess Naz. Fed a through ball in the center of midfield, Naz dribbled into Brighton’s box with two players tracking her. She attempted a backheel to Ria Percival who made a late run, which didn’t come off, but she kept the ball and played a simple back pass to Ria, whose shot took a deflection off of a Brighton player and into the net to put Spurs up 3-1. The match ended thusly.
- An excellent fight back from Spurs on the road after getting sucker-punched early. Last season this might have ended up 2 or 3-0 to Brighton. This Spurs team is different.
- Brighton’s early goal was just bad marking on a set piece. Someone’s got to see Terland at the near post and they left her unmarked. Pretty easy flicked header. Set pieces are an obvious weakness for this Tottenham defense.
- Ash Neville had a couple of chances to start some really promising counterattacks in the first half and twice overhit her pass into space. Super frustrating, but she was quite involved in the attacking third in this one.
- A frustrating first half. Spurs had lots of the ball, were getting 3 vs. 2 situations in Brighton’s area, but they couldn’t get the ball to the attackers until the late goal.
- Spurs’ late goal was deserved, they’d been knocking on the door for a while towards the end of the half. Thomas was just at the right place at the right time to knock home the rebound effort.
- Bah gawd, Grace Clinton LEATHERED that ball for her goal. She had three Brighton players around her and just blasted a 30 yarder into the top corner.
- Someone in a football Discord server I’m on referred to Celin Bizet as “basically Adama Traore” and I can’t get that comparison out of my head. Fast, tricky, but struggles with her end product.
- Martha Thomas’ goal was her fourth in four games. She’s the real deal and I still can’t help but think about this team with a healthy Beth England.
- There were moments when I thought I was watching last season’s Tottenham Women team, but they keep surprising me this season. I’m starting to believe.
- Next league match is Saturday morning at Aston Villa. That should be a real test.