Chelsea, the Death Star of the Women’s Super League, are up and running in the 2023/24 season. After a hard fought 2-1 victory against an impressive Tottenham Hotspur side, the Blues triumphed on their opening night at Stamford Bridge.
Emma Hayes handed starting debuts to Mia Fishel and Sjoeke Nüsken, with fellow newcomer Ashley Lawrence on the bench. Meanwhile, new Spurs manager Robert Vilahamn gave debuts to Grace Clinton, Martha Thomas, Olga Ahtinen and Luana Bühler.
Chelsea vs Spurs — as it happened
In what was a lively opening, both Chelsea and Spurs were happy to keep the ball and press each other when out of possession. Lauren James forced a smart save from Becky Spencer after just five minutes, with the Jamaica international pushing the ball behind for a corner. The resulting set piece was cleared off the line by stand-in skipper Molly Bartrip.
With 10 minutes on the clock, James — who would prove to be a handful as usual — cracked the woodwork with a wonderful curling effort from outside the box.
In spite of the frenetic start, Tottenham showed promising signs of what Vilhamn is trying to implement. Moving the ball well but also trying to win possession back quickly.
A couple of Spurs’ half chances were thwarted by the lack of a final ball. Bizet opted to pass to Thomas in the box when she should’ve taken the shot herself. After 20 minutes, the Norwegian tried to play Thomas in again, but her through ball had too much on it, allowing Zećira Mušović to claim.Embed from Getty Images
With 30 minutes played, Chelsea took the lead after a wonderful cross from Niamh Charles found the head of debutant Fishel, who powered the ball past Spencer. James nearly doubled the hosts’ lead just before half-time as she dragged her shot just past the far post.
At the end of the first half, Mušović showed the sort of form that won her so many plaudits during the World Cup with Sweden. She spread herself brilliantly to deny Thomas from point-blank range after the Scottish international was played in by Drew Spence.
Whatever Hayes said during her half-time talk clearly worked. Chelsea came out of the traps at the start of the second half like a house on fire.
After a bombardment from the hosts in the opening five minutes — which saw chances for James and Charles before James hit the crossbar again — Tottenham’s resistance was finally broken after 50 minutes.
A great one-on-one save from Spencer led to an almighty scramble, from which Chelsea thought they’d scored. Only for Ash Neville to just about smuggle the ball off the line. Tottenham only half cleared their lines and Charles whipped in an inviting cross to James, who peeled off Eveliina Summanen to head home and eventually double Chelsea’s advantage.Embed from Getty Images
The Blues were threatening to run riot but the visitors eventually got a foothold in the game. Grace Clinton forced a fine save from Mušović as she batted away a shot headed for her top left-hand corner.
With 20 minutes left, Jessica Naz — on as a sub just after the hour mark — dispossessed Maren Mjelde deep in the Chelsea half. Her cross found Thomas on the penalty spot, but she put her effort wide under close attention from the Chelsea defence.
Thomas did eventually get her goal with 15 minutes left to play. She reacted quickly to poke the ball home after Mušović spilled a Clinton effort to give Spurs a lifeline. If Mušović was at fault for the Tottenham goal, she more than redeemed herself in the 82nd minute. The Swede went full stretch to tip away a low drive from Naz.
In the final throes of the game, the Blues were denied a third as Jelena Čanković’s effort was flagged offside. But Chelsea were still able to see the game out and claim a hard-earned three points over Spurs. Their next challenge will see them take on Manchester City. For Tottenham and Vilahamn, it was a disappointing result overall. However, there was much to be pleased about ahead of their home opener against newly promoted Bristol City.