Two goals from Melanie Leupolz, including a 30-yard stunner to open the scoring, helped the Blues extend our winning streak to nine games with a comfortable victory in this London derby.
Although the opening quarter was relatively even, we took control of the contest with a devastating three-goal burst in the space of 10 minutes, and from that moment the three points were never in doubt.
Leupolz got the ball rolling with a strike from all of 30 yards that seemed to catch everyone by surprise – including the Spurs keeper, who could only watch on helplessly as the shot flew past her and into the top corner.
The visitors were masters of their own downfall two minutes later, as they conceded possession cheaply to allow Fran Kirby a clear run down the right and all the time in the world to pick out Pernille Harder, who scored for a third Barclays Women’s Super League game in succession.
The Dane then turned provider for our third, instigating a swift counter-attack down the left and clipping a cross over the Spurs defence for Sam Kerr to power in a header from close range. It was the Australian’s team-leading ninth WSL goal of the campaign.
Having done the hard work in the opening 45 minutes, the second half was straightforward for the Blues, as Emma Hayes made full use of her subs bench to bring on five players and we rarely looked under any threat.
There was still another goal to come, this time from the penalty spot, when a careless handball allowed Leupolz the chance to score a second penalty against Tottenham this season, as she was also on target from 12 yards in our Continental League Cup group game in November.
Just as on that occasion, the Germany international made no mistake, taking her goal tally in her maiden season in England to five, three of which have come against Spurs.
While the goalscorers will take the plaudits, this was a fine team effort once again. Ann-Katrin Berger may have had little to do for much of the 90 minutes, but had she not turned an early shot from the home side onto the post with a magnificent fingertip save, it could have been a very different afternoon in KT1.
As it is, we strolled to victory, extending our record unbeaten run in the WSL to 33 games to ensure we’ll remain at the top of the standings and in wonderful form going into a second London derby this week, which comes on Wednesday as we take on West Ham United for a place in the Continental League Cup final.
Hayes made five changes to the team that made WSL history against Aston Villa in midweek, as Berger, Jonna Andersson, Leupolz, Ji So-Yun and Kirby were brought in for Carly Telford, Niamh Charles, Sophie Ingle, Jessie Fleming and Bethany England.
Andersson slotted back in at left-back, reuniting with Maren Mjelde, Millie Bright and Magda Eriksson as our usual back four lined up in front of Berger. Ji and Leupolz were also back together to reform their blossoming midfield partnership, flanked by Kirby and Guro Reiten, who came into the game with five assists from her previous two appearances. Harder and Kerr, both on target against the Villans, continued up front.
The Australian was in the thick of it early on, twice being found in space in and around the box. However, her two shots, one with the right and the other the left, both failed to test Aurora Mikalsen, who was making her debut between the sticks for Spurs.
To their credit, the visitors hadn’t just come her to sit back and let the Blues play in front of them, showing plenty of attacking intent of their own in the early stages. Indeed, had it not been for a stunning save by Berger, who got the slightest of touches on a Ria Percival shot to turn it onto the post, we would have found ourselves trailing for the first time in a WSL game since mid-November.
Although Spurs had gone closest to scoring, the better chances were being fashioned by Hayes’ side, as Kirby shot into the side-netting from a tight angle and Harder forced Mikalsen into her first save of the afternoon. When the opening goal arrived in the 26th minute, it certainly felt like it had been on the cards – although the manner of the strike caught everyone by surprise.
When Leupolz received the ball more than 30 yards from goal, she had plenty of options, with no Tottenham players for company. Instead, she ignored them all to let fly with a swerving shot that arrowed into the far corner, leaving Mikalsen scrambling across goal and completely helpless. It was a stunning effort from the German midfielder.
Having held their own for much of the early going, the concession of the opening goal led to a Spurs implosion. Two minutes after going behind they gave the ball away deep in their own half, which allowed Kirby to sprint clear and lay the ball off for Harder to prod the ball past the keeper, via a touch off the head of Abbie McManus. In no time at all, what was looking like a tricky London derby now appeared to be a stroll in the park, as we took complete control of the contest.
We continued to pile the pressure on a Spurs backline that was looking more ragged by the minute, and a third goal in a devastating 10-minute spell put the game out of sight. This time Harder was the architect, taking the ball out to the left-hand side and clipping a wonderful cross to the back stick, leaving an unmarked Kerr with the simple task of heading home from close range.
When the half-time whistle came, the Spurs players trudged off the field looking rather despondent. A game they had more than held their own in for 25 minutes had slipped away from them, as the difference in class between the two frontlines had been laid bare.
When the action resumed in the second half – with Hannah Blundell on in place of Mjelde – there was no drop off from a Chelsea side hungry for more goals. Harder nearly made it four with a strike that would have been a contender for Goal of the Season, as Reiten clipped a corner to the edge of the box that was met with a thumping left-footed volley by the Dane. Had it not been for Percival holding her position at the near post, the ball would have found the top corner of the net, rather than being headed away.
Spurs freshened up their attack with the introduction of Rosella Ayane, who came off the bench to double the ex-Chelsea contingent in the visiting ranks, joining Gemma Davison. Two Blues changes followed soon after, as Kerr and Kirby headed off for a well-deserved rest, to be replaced by England and Fleming.
The former’s first contribution was to win a penalty for her side, as her cross was blocked by the outstretched hand of Harrop. Up stepped Leupolz to take the spot-kick – and she made no mistake, sending the keeper the wrong way with a side-footed finish to the bottom-left corner.
We continued to push for more goals, despite Hayes bringing on her full quota of substitutes in the closing stages, but a fifth wasn’t forthcoming. Still, it had been a fine performance with which to continue our WSL-record unbeaten run and we retain our spot at the top of the table.
Next up for the Blues is a Continental League Cup semi-final against West Ham United, as we continue our defence of the trophy. Kingsmeadow is the venue once again for a game that kicks off at 5pm on Wednesday and will be streamed live on the FA Player.
Chelsea (4-4-2) Berger; Mjelde (Blundell h/t), Bright (Ingle 77), Eriksson (c), Andersson; Kirby (Fleming 61), Ji, Leupolz, Reiten; Harder (Spence 77), Kerr (England 61)Unused subs Telford, Fox, Beever-JonesScorers Leupolz 27, 63 (pen), Harder 29, Kerr 38
Tottenham (4-2-3-1) Mikalsen; Neville, McManus, Zadorsky; Kennedy (c), Percival; Davison (Quinn 78), Graham (Green h/t), Addison; Naz (Ayane 57)Unused subs Martin, Filbey, Dean, Cho, Morgan
Referee Sarah Garratt