Maybe it’s an indication of how the women’s game is growing, but even the stadium announcer sounded surprised when he tannoyed, midway through the second half of the pre-season friendly between Chelsea and Spurs, that 2,400 people had turned up to Kingsmeadow. The Blues won the match comfortably, with the fact that the scoreline was
Maybe it’s an indication of how the women’s game is growing, but even the stadium announcer sounded surprised when he tannoyed, midway through the second half of the pre-season friendly between Chelsea and Spurs, that 2,400 people had turned up to Kingsmeadow.
The Blues won the match comfortably, with the fact that the scoreline was only 2-0 explained by the tiring legs in the second half.
This was an unusual friendly as manager Emma Hayes set out to play the full 90 minutes using no substitutes at all.
Earlier in the day, half the squad – including club captain Magda Eriksson, Sam Kerr, Sophie Ingle, Millie Bright and Niamh Charles – had played a friendly at the Cobham training ground against the youth team (beating the kids 4-3).
The rest made up the team for the 2pm kick-off game against Spurs. So while Rehanne Skinner named nine subs, and used six of them as second-half replacements, Hayes made her starting line-up the finishing line-up, with understandable exhaustion being a factor in the final 20 minutes.
First-half goals from Pernille Harder and Lauren James were enough to secure the win in what started as a lively contest, but steadily dropped in pace.
Harder’s goal came after a quarter of an hour. Right-back Jess Carter fed the ball back into the mix in the Tottenham goalmouth after Guro Reiten’s corner was partially cleared, and Harder lashed out at it as she stumbled over. The connection was sweet and – despite ending up on her back – she managed to wallop the ball past Becky Spencer in the Spurs goal.
James made it 2-0 in the 39th minute, stabbing the ball into the far corner past Spencer’s despairing dive.
Spurs (including former Blue Drew Spence) almost clawed a goal back just before the interval after Carter undercooked a backpass to Blues keeper Zecira Musovic, currently taking the place of Ann-Katrin Berger who has announced she has a recurrence of thyroid cancer after four years’ remission.
Rosella Ayane pounced on the error, rounded the keeper and fired at goal, but captain Maren Mjelde, the Blues’ player of the match, hurled herself back to make a heroic last-gasp goalline clearance to maintain the clean sheet. It was a display which brought the crowd to its feet, and earned applause and cheers from Eriksson, Bright, Kerr etc who were watching from the main stand.
With Spurs reserve keeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela on at the start of the second half, and a series of further Tottenham substitutions, the fresh legs began to threaten the increasingly heavy legs of Chelsea, but the Blues dug deep and kept out the visitors.
Pick of the crop for Spurs was Jess Naz, a 21-year-old striker on an intriguing journey. She began as a Tottenham academy player, switched to north London rivals Arsenal then rejoined Spurs and has become a first-choice forward. Her ball control and energy impressed.
It was a chance for the Kingsmeadow faithful to cast an eye over new summer signings including Eve Perisset, who played the first half as left-back and the second as right-back in a switch with Carter, and forward Johanna Rytting-Kaneryd who (mercifully for any replica shirt buyers) has settled on ‘Kaneryd’ above her No19. When the pair linked up on the right, they played with inventiveness and maturity.
The fans, who kept up a constant barrage of good-natured chants, also had the chance to see Erin Cuthbert (the Scottish Messi, as one song puts it) in the new position Hayes is experimenting with, sitting in front of the back four in a role usually occupied by Sophie Ingle.
She did well, although in a straight comparison of the two, Ingle’s height advantage gives her an edge in aerial combat in midfield.
Hayes was pleased with the result and performance, as was goalscorer Harder. “It’s good to get a win before the season starts,” she said, adding that she was now looking forward to the first proper game on September 11, against West Ham Women, which is being staged at Stamford Bridge. “I’ve not played there before,” she said. Tickets available, and the game will be screened live on BBC2.
Hayes said that both halves of her squad had “really, really needed” a 90-minute workout. She said that the team had dropped its standards in the second half and that “our movement left a lot to be desired”, but was positive overall.