Chelsea secured a winning return to the touchline for manager Emma Hayes as they edged past Tottenham Hotspur in a 3-0 Women’s Super League win at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Hayes was back in the dugout after undergoing an emergency hysterectomy last month, and her side were rarely troubled by goals from Sam Kerr, Erin Cuthbert and Guro Reiten that propelled Chelsea to the top of the WSL table.
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It was Chelsea’s ninth successive win in all competitions as the defending WSL champions confirmed their title credentials and were three points ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United – although they had played a game more than either team.
“I felt like I hadn’t been gone,” said Hayes. “Someone previously asked me how many football games I’ve coached in my career and I couldn’t tell you, but I’m guessing it’s over 1,000. This is the longest team I’ve ever been with and it just felt like I went back to my family.”
The match took place in front of a record home crowd of 38,350 supporters for a Chelsea women’s match. Hayes said women’s teams were outgrowing their home grounds, while Tottenham boss Rehanne Skinner said those attendances should be “normalised” across the league.
“I’d like to be here more,” Hayes added. “I’m absolutely sure we’re all outgrowing our small stadiums, I’m sure. I know the players want to play here more, but I also think it’s important.” [to remember] there are business costs associated with playing.”
The victory held additional significance for Chelsea as the club celebrated 10 years with Hayes in charge and 30 years since the formation of the women’s team before kick-off. They wasted little time showing why they have become so dominant during Hayes’ tenure.
It took Kerr just 12 minutes to strike in a moment of hesitation and open the scoring. Millie Bright’s long ball forward sent the Australia striker clear, and she shot home with Tottenham keeper Tinja Riika-Korpela rushing out – bypassing three defenders as they tried to clear their lines.
The home side’s second goal was a brilliant individual performance. A corner bounced invitingly for Cuthbert and the midfielder swung a shoe at it, sending a looping shot past Riika-Korpela’s outstretched hand.
It was the perfect way for Cuthbert to celebrate a new contract after extending her Chelsea deal until 2025 earlier this week.
Tottenham sank without a trace. Chelsea made Skinner’s side pay again in the 35th minute when the lively Lauren James stormed into the penalty area and fouled Ashleigh Neville. Reiten sent Riika-Korpela the wrong way from the resulting penalty to put Hayes’ side in full control before the break.
Chelsea picked up where they left off after the restart. A penalty appeal was brushed aside in the 54th minute when Tottenham’s Amy Turner got a handful of Reiten’s shirt into the area, while Bright fired a thunderous shot against the crossbar from a corner kick two minutes later. James curled a shot wide of Riika-Korpela’s right post as she searched for the goal that deserved her contribution.
Tottenham squandered their best chance in the closing stages. Substitute Chioma Ubogagu fizzled in a cross from the left for Drew Spence, but the former Chelsea striker was unable to turn in from close range.
“We’ve played some good things overall, that happens on a more consistent basis, but we just need to be more clinical to be able to grab those opportunities when they come,” Skinner said.
Elsewhere in the WSL, Arsenal looked to have done enough as they came back from a goal deficit to lead 2-1 against Manchester United on Saturday, but an 85th-minute goal from substitute Martha Turner put the visitors level and they took all three points. when Alessia Russo scored in stoppage time.
Arsenal finished the weekend in second place on 18 points, ahead of United on goal difference, with both teams still having a game to play against Chelsea.
Manchester City, who beat Everton 2-1 on Saturday, are fourth with 15 points, three ahead of Aston Villa, who won 3-1 against Reading on Sunday thanks to a Rachel Daly hat-trick.
There was late drama at the bottom of the table as Rachel Furness hit two minutes into stoppage time to give Liverpool in 10th a 3-3 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion, while Leicester City conceded at bottom in the 88th minute in a 1 – 0 defeat against West Ham United.
Information from Reuters contributed to this report.