Chelsea Women are into the semi-finals of the Continental Cup after a deserved victory over Tottenham at Brisbane Road.
Erin Cuthbert put us ahead shortly before half-time, although there was some debate as to whether Sam Kerr got the final touch with the ball taking a deflection on its way in.
Sub Fran Kirby doubled our lead midway through the second half, sweeping in a fine finish after excellent work from the outstanding Lauren James.
There was time for a third, no doubt Kerr notching this one after Johanna Rytting Kaneryd’s clever pass freed her and she calmly lifted the ball into the net to round off an excellent night’s work for Emma Hayes and her side, who gave very little away down the other end until ex-Blue Drew Spence smashed an unstoppable long-range strike into the top corner in the fourth minute of added time.
The semi-finals of the Conti Cup will take place on either February 8 or February 9. The draw is tomorrow, Thursday, at 4.30pm, broadcast live on Talksport 2.
Hayes made a solitary change to the side that started, but of course did not finish, Sunday’s abandoned league game against Liverpool. James replaced Niamh Charles, and operated in the three behind Kerr.
For our hosts, former Blues Bethany England, Rosella Ayane and Spence all started.
The Blues began patiently on a wet and windy night in east London. An injection of pace and some neat movement in the final third ended with a Guro Reiten cross being allowed to reach Eve Perisset at the far post. Her well-struck half-volley whistled just wide.
At the other end, Celin Bizet stung Zecira Musovic’s palms from the edge of the box as Tottenham bared their teeth for the first time.
They were happy to get plenty of players behind the ball out of possession in an attempt to stifle our attacking instincts. When we did create an opening midway through the half, Spence stretched to stop Jelena Cankovic’s pass finding Cuthbert six yards out.
An even better move instigated by a delightful Kerr flick and subsequently involving Cankovic and Reiten did not get the finish it merited, James connecting well on her left foot but shooting straight at Tinja-Riikka Korpela. It would have been a goal of the season contender!
A rapid counter-attack from a Tottenham corner allowed us space hitherto tough to find, and so nearly ended with us taking the lead. Cuthbert’s searching pass released Kerr, who switched the play to James. Her low shot took a faint touch and deflected wide of the near post.
However, our pressure paid off in the 38th minute. Cuthbert’s throw found Reiten who cutely flicked a pass back into the Scot’s path, and she strode forward before blasting a shot past Korpela with the aid of a deflection. Kerr’s presence in the middle had played its part, too, and the Aussie wasn’t far off doubling our lead on the stroke of half-time with a header Korpela saved.
Spence had a decent chance to level after the restart, shooting wide from 12 yards having picked up a typically dangerous position, but it was Chelsea that remained in control, dominating the ball and the territory.
On the hour, Hayes shuffled her pack, bringing on Jessie Fleming and Kirby for Sophie Ingle and Cankovic.
Super Fran strikes!
Kirby didn’t wait long to make an impact. James, a menace down our right all evening, beat Kerys Harrop with skill and speed before showing awareness to cut the ball back to Kirby, who timed her run and whipped a first-time finish into the top left-hand corner. It was the silky team goal we had been threatening all night.
Another inviting James delivery nearly led to goal number three, but Tottenham centre-back Shelina Zadorsky’s header trying to intercept it only just missed her own goal.
With 10 minutes left, Kerr took a Cuthbert pass in her stride and raced clear only to be denied by a super Korpela stop with her outstretched right leg.
Late goals at either end
Kerr did get her goal in the 86th minute, latching on to Rytting Kaneryd’s cute pass after another sub, Jessie Fleming, had taken a free-kick quickly having been fouled herself.
In five minutes of additional time Musovic got down low to deny England, with what was her first sniff of goal all night, and then Kirby rounded Korpela but couldn’t find the net, nor James in the middle.
It was Tottenham who had the final say through Spence, thumping in the goal of the game from 25 yards against a Chelsea side a player down after Niamh Charles had to exit early through injury, but there was no doubt this was our night in east London.
Attention turns to the Women’s FA Cup on Sunday with Liverpool the visitors to Kingsmeadow for a 1pm kick-off.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Musovic; Perisset (Charles 83), Buchanan, Bright (c), Carter; Cuthbert, Ingle (Fleming 61); Reiten (Rytting Kaneryd 76), Cankovic (Kirby 61), James; Kerr.
Unused subs Berger, Eriksson, Abdullina, Mjelde, Svitkova
Scorers Cuthbert 38, Kirby 68, Kerr 86
Booked Reiten 75, James 90+5
Tottenham (3-4-3): Korpela; Turner, Bartrip, Zadorksy (c); Bizet, Spence, Summanen (James 82), Harrop; Iwabuchi (Ubogagu 59), England, Ayane.
Unused subs Spencer, Naz, Karczewska, Ale
Scorer Spence 90+4
Booked Ayane 67
Referee Stacey Pearson