It was a game to forget for Liverpool and Republic of Ireland centre-half Niamh Fahey as she was sent off in her side’s second consecutive 1-0 defeat of the season, this time at the hands of newly-promoted Tottenham Hotspur.
With both teams suffering narrow opening day defeats and many considering them to be amongst the favourites for the drop, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool would have both felt it vital to get points on the board at this early stage.
The points only seemed like they were going one way in the opening stages at The Hive this afternoon. Some early pressure down the left from Liverpool meant the Merseyside outfit were comfortably on top as Spurs struggled to keep hold of possession.
Although Liverpool had the lion’s share of play in the opening 20 minutes, Tottenham Hotspur very much grew into the game and were able to get a foothold in the match. This breathed some life into the very vocal support for the home side who certainly made themselves known. Perhaps the unfamiliar surroundings of The Hive Stadium left the North London club initially uneasy in their new home but the crowd were intent on not allowing it to feel like an away game.
However, Liverpool did their best to silence the chants of “Glory, Glory, Tottenham Hotspur”. A low snap-shot from distance from teenager Amy Rodgers flashed narrowly wide and had Becky Spencer in the Tottenham Hotspur goal scrambling to her right hand post.
Liverpool’s Jess Clarke cut in from the left and had the first shot on target but the effort was too far out to trouble Spencer who caught it comfortably. Spurs soon had their own long range effort as Rachel Furness’ left footed strike from 25 yards proved much more troublesome as Anke Preuss parried the ball away to her left.
That seemed like it would be the story of the first half, both teams with fast, high-intensity play in the middle of the park but ultimately limited to speculative shots from distance. That was until Kit Graham, controversially signed from Charlton Athletic, won the ball for Tottenham Hotspur deep in the Liverpool half. The number 16 threaded a through ball for Furness who was subsequently brought down from behind by Becky Jane. The referee awarded the penalty just as the game ticked into added time in the first half.
It was the Northern Irish international Furness who stepped up to take the spot kick and she coolly side-footed the ball into the back of the net, sending Preuss the wrong way.
This seemed to galvanize The Lilywhites and after winning possession straight from the kick-off, Ria Percival tried an ambitious effort from just outside of the centre circle but Preuss saw the ball drift safely wide.
Despite the scoreline, you would imagine both managers would’ve emphasised caution at half-time with the game so finely balanced and with the league shaping out to be the tightest in it’s history. The fine margins could prove to make all the difference come the end of the season.
The second half continued much as the first as both teams moved the ball swiftly in midfield but were left frustrated due to a lack of options in the final third. Rosella Ayane had the first real effort on goal after the interval but her shot from distance was straight down Preuss’ throat.
In one of the few instances where Liverpool were able to get behind the Spurs back-line, last season’s top scorer Courtney Sweetman-Kirk powered her way towards the dead ball line. Her eventual cut back to Clarke was inch-perfect but under pressure, her first time effort drifted wide of the far post.
The match remained on knife edge until a long ball over the top caught out Liverpool’s back-four. Ayane used her pace to outrun Fahey to find herself through on goal and in her desperation the defender clumsily brought the Spurs player down. The referee had no hesitation in reaching to his back pocket and brandishing the red to dismiss the veteran centre-back.
From there the home side controlled possession, continued to create chances and looked like they might have been in to double their lead until Chloe Peplow’s right footed effort from the edge of the area flashed past a panicked Preuss but into the side-netting.
With Spurs having the numerical advantage, Liverpool found their outlets going forward limited. This meant that the hosts were able to comfortably play out the dying minutes with little cause for concern and claim their first three points in the FA Women’s Super League.