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Leicester Women 1-1 Tottenham Women: Spurs can’t convert their chances, earn third straight draw

Spurs may rue these dropped points later in the season.

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Women´s Super League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur Women had a few scares along the way but were ultimately the better side against Leciester City in a WSL match played at the King Power Stadium in Leicester. Spells of dominant possession again didn’t translate to multiple goals, however. Leicester scored midway through the first half through Belgium international Janice Cayman, and while Spurs eventually leveled thanks to Celin Bizet, they had numerous other opportunities that they couldn’t convert. The match ended a frustrating 1-1 draw, Spurs’ third consecutive match with that scoreline.

We knew there would be changes to the starting lineup after Finnish midfielder Olga Ahtinen picked up an MCL injury in Spurs’ last match and was ruled out until January. Spurs manager Robert Vilahamn opted to replace her with Kiwi international Ria Percival playing alongside Eveliina Summanen, who signed a new contract at the club last week. Jessica Naz also started the match ahead of Kit Graham, while Luana Bühler was deemed healthy enough to start the match in the back line alongside Molly Bartrip, who wore the captain’s armband.

Former Tottenham club captain Josie Green started in midfield for the Foxes.

First Half

Leicester started the match quickly, pressing high and causing a few troubling turnovers in Spurs’ half. Spurs’ defense was tested early after Leicester’s Jutta Rantala forced a good save from Becky Spencer in the 5th minute; the rebound looked destined for the goal but Ash Neville somehow got a leg to it and made a spectacular goal-line clearance.

Leicester’s high press and fast attack paid dividends in the 18th minute on what turned out to be a clinical break and an even more clinical finish from Janice Cayman with the outside of her right boot. Leicester carved Spurs’ midfield open, found Cayman with a step of space inside the box, and she calmly slotted past Becky Spencer to put Leicester up 1-0 and good for their lead. Martha Thomas forced a save from the Leicester keeper just afterwards with a looping header off a pass from Angharad James.

Spurs had their best chance of the match at the half-hour mark that forced three saves from Janina Leitzig — Grace Clinton backheeled a ball to Thomas who put a simple square ball to Jess Naz in the box. Naz was wide open but Leitzig somehow managed to get a hand to deny a goal. Ashleigh Neville had another shot saved and Leitzig made another fine stop from a long range effort from James.

Spurs had a penalty shout on Martha Thomas waved off by the match official just before halftime, despite the Leicester player appearing to barge her in the back. Bizet and Green were also involved in a knee-to-knee challenge late that required lengthy treatment from both sets of physios, but both players were okay in the end. The first half ended 1-0.

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Women´s Super League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Second Half

Vilahamn did not make any halftime substitutions, but Spurs started the half with greater energy and intent especially in the midfield and they looked markedly more effective going forward throughout the half.

Naz nearly got Spurs out to a perfect start two minutes into the half after dribbling into the box and lofting a shot at goal that forced a fingertip save from Leitzig. Thomas and Bizet combined in the box a couple of minutes later for a shot that Celin scuffed straight at the keeper.

Spurs finally got their breakthrough at the 56th minute. Naz started the move with a square ball to Martha Thomas about 30 yards from goal; Martha spun, freed herself, and put a gorgeous through ball into the box. Bizet made the run to receive the ball and fired past Leitzig to level the score.

Spurs made a double sub in the 58th minute —Ria Percival came off for Asmita Ale, while Rosella Ayane came on for Naz, replacing one speedster with another and with James sliding into midfield.

Sam Tierney nearly put Leicester back in front at the hour mark with a long blast that plonked off the crossbar. Spurs started to turn the screws midway through the second half, going close from James and Ayane and regularly finding space in and around Leicester’s box. Vilahamn opted to throw another attacker on late to try and snatch a winner when Ellie Brazil came on for Clinton in the 72nd minute.

Spurs had the better of the match in the second half as Leicester backed off of their high press, but the Foxes had a number of decent opportunities to score on the break. Molly Bartrip and Luana Bühler both played well, using their positioning to cut out opportunities and playing well out of the back to the point where Becky Spencer rarely had to make a save.

Spurs nearly snatched it at the death — Bizet fired a ball into Brazil who couldn’t quite direct it at goal, and Martha Thomas forced a late save from Leitzig, but despite some furious late pressure around Leicester’s area, Spurs couldn’t find a winner and the match ended in a hard-fought but frustrating 1-1 draw.

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Women´s Super League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Match Notes

  • Leicester really dominated the midfield early. Spurs seemed to miss the physicality of Olga Ahtinen and Drew Spence, but started to settle down inside 15 minutes. That physicality is something they’ll want to address.
  • Spurs also seemed to really struggle with Leicester’s high press in the first half. Leicester swarmed all over Spurs’ midfielders whenever they touched the ball and had difficulty getting back to cover on breaks. That press also disrupted Spurs from playing quick progressive passes which limited their effectiveness going forward.
  • IDK how Naz missed that wide open look from 10 yards out, but that felt like one she shoudl’ve buried no matter how good the keeper is. Naz really stretched Leicester’s defense on the rare times they had room to run, but while she forced a couple of saves she also at times frustrated with her final ball.
  • Bizet had bee mostly anonymous and ineffective in this match, right up to the goal! Credit to her for making the run into the box anticipating Thomas’ pass, though Ashleigh Neville was also right there.
  • Big Marf didn’t have as many shots as we’re used to but she was quite effective in other ways, dropping deep in a Harry Kane-ish role and playing others into the match.
  • I really thought Spurs were going to score when James got free in the box, but she inexplicably opted to try a cut-back to Ros instead of pulling the trigger. Had she had a pop I think she could’ve beaten the keeper.
  • I’m not really sure what Ellie Brazil brings to the table — she looked mostly ineffectual as a late striker, and it’s hard not to think she’s glued to the bench the second Beth England comes back. I think I would’ve liked to have seen Zhang as a late sub instead, though perhaps Bob thought Ellie’s height could be influential in the box?
  • The result is probably fair, but it feels like two dropped points on the road. Spurs were a lot better than Leicester in the second period; a little more clinical finishing Spurs win this in the second half.
  • Spurs still with only one loss — opening week to Chelsea who look like may run away with the title this season (again) — but now have three straight 1-1 draws that could’ve been wins with just a little more juice. Those dropped points may come back to haunt them — they start a murderer’s row of league matches upcoming, with matches at Manchester City, and home to Manchester United and Arsenal.
  • Up first however is a cup match vs. Bristol City this coming Wednesday, kickoff 2:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. GMT.