Ladies report: Chelsea 4 Tottenham Hotspur 1
news Wed 6 Dec 2017
On a special night for Claire Rafferty, Chelsea Ladies produced a fine performance to defeat Spurs and seal top spot in our Continental Tyres Cup group.
After dominating the early exchanges the Blues went ahead in slightly fortuitous circumstances through Hannah Blundell, who hammered a shot at goal which Spurs keeper Toni-Anne Wayne parried into the back of the net.
Our lead was two at the half-time break as Fran Kirby, having missed three earlier chances, made no mistake after a cut-back from the scorer of our first. She was at it again in the second half, finishing tidily from a pass by Drew Spence, and though Spurs pulled a goal back through Lauren Pickett, Spence grabbed a late goal herself to seal an impressive win.
The game was dedicated to Rafferty as a celebration of her 10 years of service to the Blues. Our No11 was named captain for the game and gave an emotional speech in the dressing room upon arrival at the stadium. She also received a guard of honour by both sets of players as she entered the pitch, before being presented with a bouquet of flowers by manager Emma Hayes.
Then it was onto the serious business of facing Spurs in a rare London derby between the two sides, a fixture which had never before been played in the WSL era. It was a dominant start from the Blues as we looked to take the game to the visitors, who were in need of only a point to guarantee a spot in the last eight. Spence was heavily involved in the early exchanges, skewing a volley off target and then arriving late at the edge of the box to fire a low shot just wide.
Chelsea's No24 then turned provider to send Kirby through on goal and what followed was a collector's item as the usually clinical striker failed to make the most of the opportunity, although it should be noted the save from Spurs keeper Wayne was of the highest order.
A two-minute spell soon after produced three clear chances in quick succession as Maren Mjelde whipped a free-kick just wide of the target, Spence saw a header cleared off the line and finally Erin Cuthbert rattled the woodwork with a ferocious strike from distance.
For all our fluid build-up play, when the goal finally arrived it owed much to a large slice of luck. Although Blundell's shot from the right had plenty of pace on it, Wayne will be disappointed that, having got a strong hand to it, she could only parry it into the back of the net.
There was no let up from the Blues either, and Kirby was disappointed not to at least test the keeper with her left foot after being played through for the second time in the first half. After another near miss from Chelsea's No14, the goal she had been threatening finally arrived on the stroke of half-time. Blundell went from goalscorer to provider, laying the ball off to the edge of the area for Kirby to stroke a low finish into the far corner.
We continued in the same vein after the half-time interval, with Mjelde and Ramona Bachmann both opting for power when well placed, but it was the finesse of Kirby which breached the Tottenham net for the third time in the contest. Spence was the creator and for the second time in the game the England striker sent a low finish past Wayne.
Spurs pulled one back soon after when former Blues youngster Pickett took advantage of a defensive error to give her side hope of an unlikely comeback, but Chelsea took control once again and it was only the woodwork that denied Mjelde and then Cuthbert, both of whom unleashed ferocious strikes from distance in the space of a couple of minutes.
Hayes made a couple of changes, introducing Crystal Dunn and Ji So-Yun, but it was the combination of Cuthbert and Spence which made the win safe for the Blues. A fine run by the Scot was followed by a precise lay-off which her fellow forward swept into the far corner with a nonchalant finish.
The biggest cheer of the night, however, was reserved for Rafferty when she made way for Gilly Flaherty. Our skipper for the game had put in another shift for the Blues, just as she has been doing for the past 10 years. It was a fitting finale to the game as we sealed our spot at the top of the group ahead of tomorrow's quarter-final draw.
Attention now turns to Sunday's top of the table clash with Manchester City at Kingsmeadow. Don't miss out - kick-off is at 6.30pm.
Chelsea (3-5-2) Spencer; Bright, Thorisdottir, Rafferty (c) (Flaherty 89); Blundell, Spence, Mjelde, Cuthbert, Davison; Bachmann (Dunn 75), Kirby (Ji 76)
Unused subs Telford, Chapman
Scorers Blundell 24, Kirby 44, 56, Spence 77
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2) Wayne, Leon, Hector, Schillaci, Neville (Vyse 30), McKenzie, McLean, Vio, Haines (Humes 76), Wiltshire, Baptiste (Pickett 54)
Unused sub Morgan
Scorer Pickett 65