Conti Cup: Arsenal continue title defence after derby thriller vs Spurs

In partnership with BCOMS

Martha Thomas of Tottenham Hotspur scores a goal surrounded by Arsenal players
Martha Thomas of Tottenham Hotspur scores their team's first goal during the FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

Arsenal continued their Conti Cup title defence on Wednesday, edging out North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at Meadow Park. The match trickled out to penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw, despite Spurs taking the lead three times throughout the clash.

Tottenham led with goals from Martha Thomas and a brace from Jessica Naz. The Gunners came from behind each time with Stina Blackstenius, Frida Magnum and Laia Codina all equalising.

A squad shake up for Arsenal

There were ten changes for Arsenal, with Vivianne Miedema starting her first game after 12 months since suffering an ACL injury. Beth England was on the bench for Spurs, so Naz held her own up front. 

With the changes to the Arsenal side, there was a feeling roaming around the stadium that the match may not live to expectations. However, it started as physical as any North London Derby. When Katie McCabe had few nicks from Celin Bizet early on, she made her presence known with a few fouls, and almost scored from 30-yards with a half volley. 

Despite the constant pressure, Thomas found herself free in the box to head home into the bottom corner. The goal came in the 17th minute after a brilliantly executed quick counter-attack.

However, a continuous worry for Tottenham has been their defence and how easily teams can pass through the lines. Even though Bizet can cover full-back, it was evident she was struggling at times. Give it another ten seconds and that’s how long it took Arsenal to equalise. Maanum crossed, and Blackstenius equalised within seconds. 

Embed from Getty Images

Arsenal were sloppy in the midfield, they couldn’t get control in the first half. Naz made it 2-1 and Tottenham grew in confidence — they saw gaps and exploited their opponents. The defence-splitting pass from Thomas was one to savour and a moment to build on for Robert Vilahamn. 

McCabe made sure to make use of the space in behind Bizet, and with a beautiful run in to lay off exquisitely for Maanum, making it 2-2 before half-time. Exciting for the neutral.

Spurs keep their foot on the gas

Tottenham continued to threat going forward with their pacy attackers, especially after Rosella Ayane came on. Defensively though, they had less to be desired.  

Naz’s work rate was visible and she led her team in that way. She couldn’t stop running, and deserved the two goals when she made it 3-2 in the 48th minute. Kathrine Kohl lost the ball in the middle of the park and Spurs took full advantage.

Embed from Getty Images

However, the Spurs defence continued to be broken. A ‘Cooney-Cross’ led to another goal for the Gunners, thanks to Codina from a free-kick.  

Arsenal saw more control in the last 20 minutes, and with players like Alessia Russo and Beth Mead coming on, the Spurs’ defence dropped deeper.

Heading into penalties, Naz missed the first spot-kick, which was a detriment to her brilliant performance. Ayane also missed, and from then, Arsenal knew a derby win was inevitable. Jen Beattie saved any apprehension after Caitlin Foord missed, but the Scot hit a powerful penalty for Arsenal to top Group D in the Conti Cup. 

What’s next?

Tottenham will remain in a strong position to qualify for the quarter-finals with one more game remaining, but Arsenal sit top with a point ahead of their rivals.  

The five League Cup group winners will progress automatically, alongside the top-two runners up. Chelsea have already qualified, with their participation in the Champions League.

MORE from Her Football Hub: