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Match Report

Martha Thomas' defining goal paints North London white

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was rocking after Spurs pull of an emphatic 1-0 victory over Arsenal

Gareth Taylor Man City_edited.jpg

via Spurs Women

16 December 2023

A Martha Thomas goal capped of both a classy counter attacking move and a historic win for Tottenham Hotspur as they sealed their first ever win over Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Spurs boss Robert Vilahamn kept the same team from Wednesday’s penalty shootout defeat to Arsenal, with the only exception being two goal hero Jess Naz dropping to the bench in favour of captain, Beth England. The most notable of the unchanged was Barbora Votikova keeping her place in goal, which ensured the Czech international started her first WSL game for the club. 

Arsenal’s Jonas Eidevall made nine changes from the cup clash, with only Katie McCabe and Frida Maamum keeping their places in the squad from the cup win. 

Arsenal came out with their usual intensity and pressing and almost caught Spurs out early on. Luana Buhler was closed down well by Caitlin Foord but the Australian couldn’t smuggle the ball through to the run of Alessia Russo, and Spurs were able to clear. 

Spurs were almost punished again early on for giving the ball away at the back, with Foord’s cross in towards Russo, but the striker/s deft header was easy pickings for Votikova in the Spurs goal. 

Spurs had their first foray forward and it was of course Bethany England at the heart of it. Martha Thomas prodded the ball through to the Spurs captain who sped past Amanda Ilestedt, but her low, left footed effort was saved well by Manuela Zinsberger. 

Caitlin Foord was again in thick of things for Arsenal, sending as curling effort towards the Spurs goal that took a nick on it’s way behind. From the resulting corner, Alessia Russo stooped to connect with a Steph Catley cross from no more than four yards out, but somehow put her header wide. Arsenal were asserting their dominance early and another teasing ball from the left saw Foord throw herself at the cross, but her effort flicked just wide. 

Caitlin Foord again tormented Spurs’ right hand side, charing fdown the left and sending a curling effort goal wards which beat Votikova but crashed back off the post and thankfully for the hosts, bounced to safety. The further bad news compounded for Spurs. As Luana Buhler had to be withdraw after just 19 minutes with what looked like an injury, being replaced by Amy Turner. 

Arsenal then had strong penalty appeals waved away by Cheryl Foster when Beth Mead went down under challenge from Ashleigh Neville, but referee Foster saw nothing doing despite vociferous protests from the away end. 

Celin Bzet had a rare foray forward down the right, with her dipping cross almost catching out Zinsberger in the Arsenal goal. Kit Graham then chanced her arm from long rang with a swerving left footed effort, but never troubled Zinsberger in the Arsenal goal.

Arsenal, and Foord in particular must have wondered how they hadn’t scored as the Australian sent another effort just over the Spurs bar on the 40th minute mark, the visitors’ seventh shot of the contest.  They finally mustered up their first shot on target with Foord feeding Frida Maanum, who took a touch, set herself and curled one goal wards which was well saved by Votikova. The Czech keeper was by far the busier, keeping out a chipped effort from the edge of the box at the second attempt. 

In one of the final actions before half time, Arsenal’s most dangerous player, Caitlin Foord sent a swirling effort over the bar, capping off a brilliant half from her and a domino t one from Arsenal, in every department accept from the scoreboard. 

Half Time - Spurs 0-0 Arsenal

Robert Vilahamn made a tactical tweak at the break, bringing on Jess Naz in place of Bethany England as the second half kicked off. 

Arsenal flew out of the blocks in the second half and Maanum forced Votikova into a good low stop three minutes after the restart, with the Czech international getting down low to deny the Arsenal Number 12.

From the resulting corner, Katie McCabe’s long range effort flew over the bar without troubling the Spurs stopper. 

Arsenal and Russo went close again, the Gunners smelt blood and charged forward with Beth Mead’s cross being flicked on by Russo but dropping wide of the post. 

Votikova had to be alert to hold another long range effort from McCabe, which she once again dealt with comfortably. Spurs were once again caught on the ball with the Czech keeper having to bail her defence out again, this time Russo stinging the palms of the Spurs stopper. 

Molly Bartrip was next in the right place to stop Arsenal from scoring, producing a stunning block to deny Beth Mead’s low left footed effort just before Frida Maanum’s curler dipped agonisingly over the bar. 

Just like that, for all of Arsenal’s dominance, it was a stunning Spurs counter that opened the scoring. Playing it out from the back, Kit Graham released Celin Bizet down the right who ran at a stretched Arsenal, and superbly cut the ball back for Martha Thomas to slide the ball home past a stranded Zinsberger to give Spurs the lead just shy of the hour. 

Arsenal nearly responded instantly as again Alessia Russo tested Votikova, but the Spurs stopper once again held her effort well. 

Lotte Wubben Moy was the first name in the referee’s book, cynically taking out Celin Bizet when she looked to break away.

Kyra Cooney-Cross and Vivianne Miedema replaced Victoria Pelova and Frida Maanum as Eidevall rolled his dice for the first time. 

The Australian almost made the immediate impact Eidevall would’ve wanted too, sending a dipping volley over the bar. Arsenal were pressing for an equaliser in the last 15 minutes, with Mead drilling a stunning cross right into the danger zone, but Angharad James was in the right place to clear. 

With ten minutes to go, Lia Walti was withdrawn for Stina Blackstenius, further showcasing Arsenal’s attacking depth. 

The game was then stopped due to a medical emergency in the Arsenal away end for about five minutes, with Martha Thomas being replaced by Ria Percival as the game got back underway.

In a final chuck of the dice from Arsenal, Katie McCabe was withdrawn for Cloe Lacasse just as eleven minutes of added on time were put up by the fourth official,. 

Celin Bizet who had ran her socks off, was withdrawn for Rosella Ayanne in added time for fresh legs. The Spurs supporters rallied behind their team trying to help them get over the line in a very nervy period of added time in N17. 

Spurs were giving everything and another superb block, this time from Ashleigh Neville helped preserve their lead. A very nervy added time period was brought to an end which brought huge joy around Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for a historic first ever win over Arsenal.

Full Time - Spurs 1-0 Arsenal

Martha Thomas 58’ 

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