Spurs may have the biggest say in who wins the Women’s Super League title4 min read
The sun is shining in England, the temperature has increased by about five degrees and the questions of titles, relegation and European qualification are starting to be answered up and down the football pyramid.
There are just two weekend rounds of Women’s Super League action left in the calendar and bizarrely, because of endless COVID-19-related postponements, there is one team that could have the biggest say in who wins the title — and it’s not Chelsea or Arsenal.
Tottenham, who were at one stage in contention for a Champions League spot but have dropped out of the European race, have been one of the surprise packages of the season and on Sunday, they played their first of two games against Chelsea. The two will play again at Kingsmeadow on Thursday before a rearranged north London derby against Arsenal on May 4.
For about 50 minutes of Sunday’s game at the Hive, it looked as if Spurs could already be grabbing their party-pooper opportunity with both hands. They went ahead through a Sophie Ingle own goal and looked well set to cause an upset when Chelsea went down to 10 players in the 33rd minute, not long after equalising. But then Sam Kerr did what she so often does and went full Super Saiyan. The Australian headed in to put Chelsea in front and delivered another season-rescuing moment, just like her goal against Aston Villa about a month ago. Jessie Fleming then made it 3-1 deep in stoppage time.
Tottenham have never managed to take a point off Chelsea in the WSL but they had the defending champions seriously on the ropes for parts of Sunday’s game. Ann-Katrin Berger’s sending off left Chelsea visibly stressed with the game at 1-1. But without enough quality in the final third and without managing a single shot on target, Tottenham ran out of steam.
It was sticky and tricky at times but Chelsea did get the job done and can breathe a sigh of relief for a few more days as they maintain their slender lead over Arsenal in the WSL title race. Later in the day, Arsenal beat Everton 3-0 to stay one point behind Emma Hayes’ side.
There were signs on Sunday that Spurs could be the team that has a say in the title race.
Arsenal will be looking at Spurs’ performance and feeling nervous before the big rearranged derby at the Emirates. They have already shown that they can cause Arsenal problems after grabbing a point against them in November. It took a late Vivianne Miedema equaliser to rescue things that day and it would have been a different story if Ashleigh Neville had converted a huge chance at 1-0.
Rehanne Skinner’s side battled aggressively against Chelsea and disrupted their play but were sloppy with the possession they did have. Jessica Naz’s brilliant recovery run to stop a Pernille Harder one on one, and Viki Schnaderbeck’s impressive challenge to dispossess Kerr and prevent a similar chance, epitomised Spurs this season.
Skinner has built a solid and organised defensive foundation, a tenacious hard-working midfield and a scrappy forward line, albeit one that has lacked chances and goals. There is exciting potential in this team and causing an upset in the title race would be the perfect way to showcase it.
This month, Skinner signed a long-term contract that keeps her at the club until 2024. The impressive work she’s done with this team and the way they’re competing and beating some of the biggest sides in the league is a testament to her coaching. The news of Skinner’s contract extension was followed by the announcement of extensions for forward Kit Graham on a deal until 2023, and defender Neville until 2025.
Skinner said in her post-match interview that the game was a “learning curve” for her team and there are just days until their next game with Chelsea and a chance to show what they learnt.
Skinner wouldn’t be drawn after the game on whether she is relishing the opportunity to be a protagonist in the title race. “In the nicest possible way, I’m really not interested. Arsenal are probably our biggest fans in these two games (against Chelsea). We can only focus on what we’re trying to do.
“We want to finish higher than what we did last year. We want to make sure that we are consistently competing with teams like this and obviously we’ve given it a really good go today. That’s what’s important to me and wherever anyone ends up, that’s their business. As long as we end up higher than where we were and we’re competing with them, that’s what matters to us.”
Skinner might be keeping it schtum on whether she wants the spotlight in the title race, but Spurs fans must be relishing the chance to potentially stop a London rival from tasting championship success.
(Photo: Getty Images)