BY PAUL LAGAN
Chelsea won 1-0 but Spurs took them all the way as the Blues opened their WSL1 campaign with all three points.
The Blues, in front of a record 24,564 crowd at Stamford Bridge gave the millions watching on TV and online a lesson in sublime finishing when striker Beth England opened her season’s account with a spectacular 30 yarder that screamed into the back of the Spurs net.
It proved to be the winner.
The home side failed to capitalise on their first half dominance and that allowed Spurs to rally strongly in the second – they had chances to level while Chelsea also had opportunities to put the match beyond doubt.
Magdalena Engman had the first chance of the game on three minutes after sustained Chelsea pressure. But her outstretched left leg could only clip the ball wide of Becky Spencer’s right post.
But it was England’s latest recruit Beth England who opened the scoring on five minutes when she latched onto a loose ball, and let fly with an left-footed sizzler from 30 yards what sailed over the desperate grasp of ex-Blues stopper Spencer and smashed into the top right-hand corner of her net.
Spurs, by contrast were stuck in their own half for much of the opening stages.
Gemma Davison had a half chance on 16 minutes but after receiving a long ball, her header, while towards goal was not powerful enough to worry Ann-Katrina Berger.
Another sweeping move by the Blues on 30 minutes should have reaped a reward of a goal, but Spence did well to snatch the goal-bound effort of Blundell out of the air.,
Rachel Furness saw her header from a deep free-kick inch wide of the Chelsea goal – the second foray into enemy territory from the north Londoners.
That gave Spurs some confidence and their first shot on goal came seconds later when a daisy-cutter from Coral-Jade Haines on the left, saw Berger spill the ball, but luckily for Chelsea centre-back Millie Bright was on hand to hack the clearance away.
Engman had a shout for a penalty turned down by referee Amy Fearn on 38 minutes when it appeared Ria Percival in the Spurs penalty area, hauled her back.
Spurs almost snatched an equaliser two minutes from the break as Haines attempted what England achieved – her curling left foot effort from range, was just inches wide of Berger’s right-hand post.
Spence then foiled Guro Reiten’s powerful drive as both sides went in search of the next goal.
Spurs replaced Haines for Chloe Peplow at half-time, Chelsea remained unchanged.
The visitors started the second half strongly and Furness forced a strong finger-tip space from Berger on 49 minutes.
Drew Spence tried a pile-driver from 20 yards by way of a response – Spencer easily snaffled the drive.
Chelsea should have doubled the lead on 60 minutes, when Drew Spence tried her luck again from range. This time she smashed the crossbar after a wonderful save by Spencer, the rebound fell to Reiten, whose header then smacked Spencer’s right post, before it was cleared.
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes, sensing Spurs increased influence on the game they had dominated decided to bring on defender Deanna Cooper, replacing Spence on 62 minutes.
Erin Cuthbert was next up for the Blues, replacing Adelina Engman, while joint Spurs boss Juan Amoros, brought on Angela Addison for Lucy Quinn.
Hayes final change saw Jonna Andersson replace Blundell with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Spurs’ final sub saw Rosella Ayane come on for Siri Worm.
The changes made little difference and the score remained 1-0 to Chelsea.
The Blues are away to Brighton next Sunday.
Teams: Chelsea, Berger, Blundell, Bright, Ingle, England, Ji, Reiten, Eriksson, Engman, Mjelde, Spence
Subs: Telford, Thorisdottir, Asante, Andersson, Cooper, Cuthbert, Fleming
Spurs: Spencer, Percival, Davison, Haines, Schillaci, Worm, Graham, Quinn, Godfrey, Furness, Neville
Referee: Amy Fern