By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 2 v Spurs 1
Mia Fishel and Lauren James proved their worth as Chelsea got off to the perfect start to the defence of their WSL title, beating a resolute Spurs 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
The American opened her account on her debut with a deft first-half header, while James produced a classic, for her, technically excellent volley to notch up number two.
A slew of substitutions saw the Blues lose control of their way and Spurs deservedly got a goal back, but goalkeeper Zecira Musovoic will be kicking herself for letting slip a shot which allowed Martha Thomas to nip the ball home.
But on a season’s day opener where all the other games saw away victories, this was a significant one for Emma Hayes who lost her father Sid earlier in the week.
Only 14,775 people were in the Bridge for the game, suggesting that there may not be such a great appetite for the fixtures at the stadium that holds 40,000.
Arsenal saw 54,000 people at the Emirates earlier in the day.
Unsurprisingly James had the first effort on goal, on five minutes – her edge of the penalty area shot was deflected away by Becky Spencer for a corner.
From the resultant kick Luana Buhler headed off the line.
A quick break by Martha Thomas, who showed a fresh pair of heels to Millie Bright had her shot well save by Musovic.
James was getting closer by the shot, and on 10 minutes, zipped a right-footer just over the Spurs crossbar.
Either side of these efforts were periods of turgid play, with defensive errors and needless offsides.
On 29 minutes the goal was finally breeched and it was a classic |Chelsea goal.
An attack on on the left starting with Niamh Charles saw the ball given to Guro Reiten.
The Norway winger, so often the supplier of goals for Sam Kerr, set up her replacement Mia Fishel who cleverly headed the ball wide of Spencer’s outstretched left arm and the ball nestled in the back of the net.
A brilliant save by Musovic thwarted Thomas deep I to added time, and the striker’s follow-up header was cleared off the line by Bright.
The move was set up by ex-Chelsea midfielder Drew Spence who was the outstanding player for the away side in the opening 45 minutes.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
Charles forced the first save of the half three minutes in, but Spencer had positioned herself perfectly at her right near post to prevent the the wing-back from getting through with her angled effort.
James then rattled the Spurs crossbar as the visitors clung on desperately.
After Spencer produce three great saves to deny the Blues, they finished off the extraordinary pressure with James side-footing home from close range.
With no VAR or goal-line technology in place, the Blues should actually have been given a goal 30 seconds earlier but Ashleigh Neville masked the ball from the eyes of the lino and the referee opted not to give it
Fran Kirby came on for Johanna Rytting-Kaneryd and Melanie Leupolz replaced Sjoeke Nusken on 59 minutes.
The Blues seemed to switch off at this point, giving Spurs added impetus and so it was no surprise when they scored when Musovic let slip a daisy-cutter and Thomas was on the spot to tap home to make it 2-1.
Musovic redeemed herself on 82 minutes when she did well tom parry away a Jessica Naz drive, but the Blues were looking shaky all over the pitch as Spurs piled on the pressure for an equaliser.
But Chelsea clung on and the seven minutes of added time were negotiated without too much trouble.
Teams: Chelsea, Musovic, Fishel, Bright, Ingle, Nusken, Carter, James, Reiten, Mjelde, Rytting-Kaneryd, Charles
Subs: Berger, Nouwen,Leupolz, Lawrence, Kirby, Perisset, Fleming, Buchanan, Cankovic
Spurs: Spencer, Bartrip, Clinton, Bizet, James, Thomas, Ahtinen, Buhler, Spence, Summanen, Neville
Subs: Votikova, Zadorsky, Turner, Naz, Percival, Ale, Graham, Ayane, Pearse
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