Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Blues edge out stubborn Spurs as Fishel nets on Stamford Bridge debut

With Arsenal falling to a painful defeat at the Emirates Stadium earlier on Sunday, Chelsea would be hoping to avoid suffering the same fate as they welcomed Tottenham Hotspur to Stamford Bridge. But with Sam Kerr absent from the matchday squad, would Emma Hayes’ side be tempting fate against Robert Vilhamn’s Lilywhites?

CHE: Mušović; Charles, Bright, Mjelde, Carter; Nüsken, Ingle; Reiten, Rytting Kaneryd, Fishel; James

TOT: Spencer; Neville, Bartrip, Bühler, James; Summanen, Ahtinen; Clinton, Spence, Bizet Ildhusøy; Thomas

An early testing drive from Lauren James could have spelled danger for the Spurs defence after just five minutes at Stamford Bridge, though a perfect parry from Becky Spencer saw the danger averted – and Molly Bartrip’s goalline clearance from the resulting corner would further save the Lilywhites’ blushes.

The visiting side came close to clinching a shock lead through Martha Thomas as she broke free and darted at pace towards Zečira Mušović – but with the Swedish ‘keeper untroubled by her efforts, it was quickly back to the regular narrative of Chelsea dominance. James’ curling effort from the edge of the box looked to have beaten Spencer, although it would ultimately ricochet against the woodwork and count for nothing.

And while acute linkup play between Celin Bizet Ildhusøy, Angharad James and Martha Thomas looked to damage the hosts’ clean sheet with fifteen minutes played in West London, they were ultimately thwarted by Chelsea’s inch-perfect defensive routine.

But Chelsea could – and perhaps should – have found themselves ahead on numerous occasions throughout the half, not least when Sjoeke Nüsken sent her headed effort straight into the receiving arms of Spencer with 24 minutes played.

Yet it was none other than Mia Fishel on her Stamford Bridge debut that fired the Blues into the lead just before the half-hour mark, heading home from Niamh Charles’ cross to beat Spencer to the bottom corner.

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That lead could have been doubled before the break though, and Lauren James will surely be rueing her missed opportunity as she blasted wide of the woodwork from the left-hand side of the penalty area – but it would have been even costlier had the referee opted to award Martha Thomas a penalty when she was felled inside the box just before the interval. Still undeterred, the ex-Manchester United forward looked to restore parity before heading down the tunnel, although she was denied by a well-positioned Mušović.

James seemed destined to work her way onto Sunday’s scoresheet – and she came just inches away from doing so in the 49th minute. Connecting beautifully with the ball, her strike could only find the underside of the bar, bobbling the wrong side of the line and away from the net.

And just two minutes later, the England starlet did in fact get her elusive goal. Seconds after mass confusion saw an apparent goal ignored, James arrived on scene to slam home from Niamh Charles’ cross – with that being her second assist of the evening.

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On loan from Manchester United for the forthcoming season, Grace Clinton looked to write her name in lights and reduce the deficit for Spurs as the hour mark drew ever nearer, but her curling strike from outside the box was pushed away from the top corner well by Mušović.

But with fifteen minutes left to play in SW6, the deficit was eventually halved, with Martha Thomas finally finding the back of the net after a number of close calls throughout the match. With Clinton’s initial effort only partially dealt with by Mušović, the ex-United forward was able to nick the ball from under the goalkeeper’s leg and tap home a simple finish to please the travelling contingent within the ground.

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Parity could have been restored soon after when Jessica Naz found herself with space to shoot inside the box, though her tame effort was never going to trouble Mušović. That would be the last chance of note for Spurs, as Chelsea sought to preserve their lead – and Melanie Leupolz came close to restoring the two-goal buffer with an acrobatic effort from Fran Kirby’s cross.

That third goal looked as though it had arrived when Jelena Čanković slammed an effort over the line in the 89th minute, although the euphoric celebrations were short-lived as the assistant referee’s flag was promptly raised.

Nonetheless, Emma Hayes’ side walk away with a crucial three points – and Chelsea will look to build upon this result as they travel to Manchester City’s recently renamed Joie Stadium on Sunday, while Tottenham Hotspur can look forward to hosting Bristol City on the same day.