Chelsea delight at Stamford Bridge in WSL opener
Mia Fishel and Lauren James earn the Blues their first three points of the season in 2-1 win over Spurs
Chelsea FC Women
1 October 2023
A dream debut for Mia Fishel as goals from the Chelsea number 2 and Lauren James saw The Blues start their WSL title defence with a win. Martha Thomas pulled one back for Spurs in the last quarter of an hour, but despite a encouraging performance from Robert Vilahamn’s side on his WSL managerial bow,
Both Sjoeke Nusken and Mia Fishel were handed their first Chelsea starts for the club following their respective moves from Eintracht Frankfurt and Tigers UNAL. Ashley Lawerence was named on the bench for the first time in Chelsea blue, with Annie Nouwen back on the Chelsea bench, following her loan last season to AC Millan.
New Spurs manager, Robert Vilahamn named Grace Clinton, Martha Thomas, Olga Ahtinen and Luana Buhler, four new signings in his starting eleven, goalkeeper Barbora Votikova named amongst the substitutes.
After an impeccable minutes silence observed by all inside Stamford Bridge in memory of Maddy Cusack, Drew Spence got the game underway for Spurs. It was the visitors who had the first foray forward as Celin Bizet got in down the right hand side, but her cross was superbly seen behind by Jess Carter.
Robert Vilahamn’s philosophy was clear to see early on, he had Spurs looking to play their way out of any situation early on, but it was Chelsea who had the first shot of the match, with Lauren James’ daisy cutter well kept out by Becky Spencer in the Spurs goal. From the resulting corner, Molly Bartrip was well placed on the line, to ensure Jess Carter’s header didn’t give the hosts an early lead.
Spurs were keeping the ball well and summer signing from Manchester United, Martha Thomas went close, finding a gap in-between Millie Bright and Carter after a brilliant ball through from Drew Spence. The very next Chelsea attack saw a brilliant curling effort from Lauren James graze the top of the bar.
A crucial intervention from Sophie Ingle was then required as Evelina Summanen looked to find Martha Thomas after a mix up at the back from Chelsea, but the Blues Number 5 got back to spare her teams blushes. Another flowing Spurs move starting with Spencer in goal, floating the ball out to Spence who then slid it wide for Bizet but the latter’s ball was a poor one when trying to find Thomas and allowed Zecira Musovic to come and collect well in the Chelsea goal.
Chelsea showed their threat from set pieces around 23 minutes in, but Guro Reiten’s corner was met by Sjoeke Nusken, but her effort was straight at Spencer in the Spurs goal. The Blues showed their clinical edge on the 27th minute, with Mia Fishel, the Chelsea fan from childhood, getting infrtont of Luana Buhler to nod the ball home, past the despairing Spencer and put the reigning champions ahead. The goal owed so much to Niamh Charles, breezing past Celin Bizet a bit too easily for Spurs’ liking in the build up to the goal.
Spurs looked for the instant reply as Olga Ahtimen found fellow new signing Martha Thomas who drove inside on her right foot, but the Scot’s effort lacked any real power and was an easy take for Musovic.
Charles and Reitien were causing Spurs all sorts of problems down the left hand side, constantly looking to combine and cause habit at every opportunity and it was their neat work, which brought about a corner that ended up with Maren Mjelde’s low effort being straight at Becky Spencer.
Chelsea were purring and Lauren James displayed great skill to breeze past her marker advancing into the box, but her low left footed drive arrowed a few yards wide of Spencer’s left hand post. Spurs and particularly Martha Thomas were desperately unlucky not to level the scores in first half added time, first being denied by Musovic who spread herself well at the feet of the Scottish international, who’s leader was then cleared off the line by Millie Bright in the last action off a gripping first half in West London.
Half Time - Chelsea 1-0 Spurs
The hosts had the first chance of the second half and predictably it came down their left side, but Niamh Charles’ low effort was well held by Spencer. They went close again two minutes later, with yet another Lauren James curler beating Spencer, but crashing down off the underside of the bar and away, with Spencer being called into action again to deny Chelsea, but Spurs just couldn’t clear their lines and a lovely ball into the middle found Lauren James who made no mistake, sliding the ball home to double Chelsea’s lead. Moments before, Guro Reiten’s effort looked to have crossed the line, but wasn’t given, however Chelsea’s number 10 made no mistake to make Spurs pay.
Spurs must’ve been ruing their luck as to how they hadn’t scored, as Grace Clinton saw her curling effort superbly kept out by Musovic in goal, before Ashleigh Neville was again denied by the Swede in goal. The attacks kept coming as Chelsea motored up the other end and Lauren James was denied another goal by the strong hands of Spencer in Spurs’ goal.
Fran Kirby was then brought on to a hero’s reception at Stamford Bridge after a torrid, Injury ridden campaign last term in place of Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, with the impressive Sjoeke Nusken also being withdrawn after a solid debut in Chelsea blue, being replaced by Melanie Leopolz.
Vilahamn made his first role of the dice, bringing off former Chelsea player Drew Spence and Olga Ahtinen for Asmita Ale and Jess Naz. Naz had a brilliant impact latching onto a loose Chelsea ball , with her centre finding Martha Thomas, who somehow hasn’t opened her Spurs account today, as her effort sailed high and wide of Musovic’s right hand post. Celin Bizet’s solid shift came to a close on the 71st minute, as she was replaced by Moroccan international Rosella Ayanne.
With 15 minutes to go, Spurs finally got their reward for their huffing and puffing, Grace Clinton’s shot wasn’t held by Musovic and Martha Thomas finally managed to smuggle the ball over the line to halve the deficit and bring about a nervous air amongst the home fans at Stamford Bridge. In the immediate aftermath of the goal, Ashley Lawerence was introduced for her Chelsea debut, along with Jessie Fleming, replacing goalscorer Lauren James and Guro Reiten respectively.
Jess Naz once again made an impact down the left, after a low ball found her free at the back post, but her low curling effort was well saved by Musovic. Jelena Cankovic was then brought on to add some steel and bite in the middle of the park for Chelsea in the games last knockings, replacing Maren Mjelde.
Chelsea almost crowned it off in fantastic Chelsea style, with Melanie Leopolz volleying a Fran Kirby cross goanward, but her effort grazed the Spurs crossbar. The blues thought they had wrapped the game up when Cankovic prodded the ball past Spencer, but her effort was chalked off by the assistant referee’s flag, putting the game back in the melting pot.
As seven added minutes went up at the end of the second half, Spurs brought off Grace Clinton for Kit Graham and you could feel the tension around The Bridge with the cushion only being one goal. But the reigning champions got their title defence off to a winning start, seeing out added time and sealing the three points in a 2-1 win over Spurs.
Full Time - Chelsea 2-1 Spurs
Chelsea - Fishel 28’, James 51’
Spurs - Thomas 76’