A powerful second-half strike from the Chelsea forward Erin Cuthbert and Melanie Leupolz’s penalty saw the Blues pull clear at the top of Group B of the Continental League Cup in a tightly fought contest with Tottenham.
Tottenham and Chelsea were level on points going into this tie, with a win apiece, but their seasons could not have been more divergent to date. Chelsea have suffered one defeat, to Everton in the rescheduled FA Cup semi-finals, and have dropped only two points in the league, in a draw with Manchester United.
Spurs, meanwhile, had one win from seven games in all competitions, to Championship side London City Lionesses in the Continental Cup , and one point in the league, from their opening-day draw with West Ham.
They were also without co-manager Karen Hills. She was self-isolating after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.
Despite the clear gap between the clubs, the visiting side held their own under a bright low moon at Kingsmeadow. In their last outing, before the international break, Spurs were four goals down to their north London rivals Arsenal by the 36th minute. Here, there was no first-half collapse.
Tottenham had the first real chance of the game. When the forward Angela Addison was clattered, up stepped the defender Siri Worm and her whipped -in ball ricocheted heavily off the bar before being cleared by the relieved Chelsea defence.
Slowly though, the patient home team crept up the pitch but struggled to carve a path through the resolute Spurs backline. Just before half-time they forced Becky Spencer into her first meaningful save, a slightly slap-dash free-kick eventually found its way to the feet of Millie Bright and her effort was tipped away.
Those on “Alex Morgan watch” could stand down with the World Cup winner absent from Tottenham’s squad. It was somewhat expected, with the striker having told the Associated Press that she had picked up a knee injury while preparing to return to action after the birth of her daughter Charlie in April. “Hopefully in the next two weeks I’ll get on the field,” she said.
“You just can’t replicate all the changes of direction, the amount of decelerations, and that puts a toll on your body, especially my body, that’s just gone through building and creating, growing a human. So, I kind of had a little setback with my knee. It’s nothing too serious.”
The Chelsea manager Emma Hayes confirmed that Fran Kirby, who injured an ankle in an England friendly, will be out for “weeks”. However, there was better news for Chelsea fans in the build up with the announcement the tie would be streamed across their app, website and social media channels. The club was criticised by their fans following the 4-1 defeat of Arsenal in their League Cup opener, which was not broadcast.
Spurs did not sit back in the second half and, in the 54th minute, Rihanna Dean nicked the ball and set up the forward Rosella Ayane, who saw Ann-Katrin Berger off her line and sent a sweeping chip goalwards but it spun narrowly wide.
Hayes’s team are used to biding their time and when the Scottish forward Cuthbert picked up the ball on the edge of Tottenham’s penalty area she blasted a shot at goal. Spencer got two hands to it but could not prevent the powerful shot from rippling the net. With five minutes left Chelsea doubled their lead when a handball resulted in a penalty. Spencer again got her hands behind the ball but she could not keep out Leupolz’s strike.