Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham: Fishel scores on debut in narrow win
Mia Fishel netted on her debut as Chelsea began their Women's Super League title defence with a 2-1 victory over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.
Fishel headed home from Niamh Charles’ cross shortly before the half-hour mark before Lauren James struck early in the second half to cement what had been a dominant display by the champions until that point.
Martha Thomas pulled goal back to set up a nervous final 15 minutes, but Emma Hayes’ side held on to lay down an early marker to their WSL title rivals.
Chelsea were without Sam Kerr, who missed a significant chunk of Australia’s World Cup through injury. Summer signing Fishel was handed a debut upfront in her place, with Germany defender Sjoeke Nusken also brought in for a first appearance after joining from Eintracht Frankfurt.
James was first to test Becky Spencer’s reflexes in the Tottenham goal with a left-footed drive from 25 yards that was palmed behind.
From the resulting corner, Jess Carter rose highest amongst a crowd to head goalwards, captain Molly Bartrip nodding off the line to preserve parity for Spurs.
The visitors – managed here for the first time by Robert Vilahamn – offered a taste of their threat when Thomas broke in between Chelsea’s central-defensive pair and, with a superb first touch, made space to shoot.
The striker had perhaps more time than she realised, taking her shot early from the edge of the box and guiding it too close to Zecira Musovic, who saved comfortably.
James struck narrowly over with an ambitious effort from range, reminiscent of the form she showed in starring for the Lionesses in the summer before suspension derailed her World Cup, but on the whole Chelsea’s threat was limited during the opening 30 minutes.
Fishel’s goal – when it came – bucked the trend of a quiet first half. Charles ran the ball to the byline and delivered a cross right onto the head of the United States international, who leapt highest and angled a finish expertly across Spencer to open her Chelsea account.
Thomas had a glorious chance to equalise in first-half added time, going clear from Drew Spence’s weighted pass but failing to steer her shot beyond Musovic who stood up well.
If the first period had been played at a modest pace, the second began in riotous fashion.
First, James whacked the underside of the crossbar after being set up by Guro Reiten, then Fishel had a chance to double her tally in blue but struck the ball too close to Spencer.
It would be a brief reprieve for Spurs. Minutes later, after Reiten thought she had scored with an effort that replays suggested had crossed the line, the Norwegian regathered her composure and crossed for James to side-foot home and cap a relentless start to the half from Chelsea.
Thomas blasted wide from 12 yards after collecting Millie Bright’s half-clearance, before finally getting the goal her endeavours warranted, prodding home after Musovic had fumbled Grace Clinton’s low drive.
The goalkeeper redeemed herself with a strong left hand to divert Jessica Naz’s effort away from goal as Spurs tested Chelsea’s resolve.
But the champions held on to start their pursuit of a fifth-straight title with victory.