The joint Tottenham manager Karen Hills hopes that interest in the women’s game will continues to grow. Goals from Kim Little and Vivianne Miedema earned victory for Arsenal in the first Women’s Super League north London derby that attracted a league-record attendance of 38,262.
“The players deserve to be playing in front of these big crowds,” she said. “Hopefully it won’t just be an occasion, hopefully it will be the norm.”
The Arsenal manager, Joe Montemurro, said: “It was an amazing occasion. We’re very proud to have been a part of it. To have the passion, to have the rivalry, to have the tribalism. It was fantastic.”
Spurs smashed the previous WSL record attendance of 31,213, set on the opening weekend of the season at the Etihad Stadium, while Chelsea secured the record for a WSL game at a women’s home ground with 4,790 at Kingsmeadow for their 1-0 win over Manchester United.
The attendance for Women’s Football Weekend beat the opening weekend of fixtures with a total of 74,247. For context, 107,000 attended 110 WSL fixtures last season.
The last time the north London teams met competitively Arsenal hammered their rivals 10-0 to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals in 2017. Then, Little scored on her return to the club for a second spell.
This game was much tighter, but that was no surprise. The Tottenham revolution has been swift. Three seasons ago Spurs were lifting a cup double in the third tier of women’s football, kept very much at arm’s length by the club.
Unlike others teams, who have bid their way into the Championship or top-flight, Spurs are in the WSL on merit. After that double, they won a quadruple and promotion to the Women’s Championship. In their first season they finished seventh of 10 teams, one year later they won promotion into the WSL after finishing behind Manchester United.
When Tottenham were preparing for their new stadium to open many saw it as a missed opportunity that the women’s team were not a part of the planned test events. “The past, the present and the future” were honoured through a legends match, the under-18s and first team, the women’s team notably absent.
Fast forward to the new season and that recent past looks a world away. Now they are firmly nestled in the club’s embrace.
“This is my ninth season,” said the other half of Spurs’ management duo, Juan Amoros. “I went to watch a game against Milliwall Lionesses and we lost six or seven-nil. I sent an eight-page report to Karen about what needed to change.”
Hills said: “My first memory was when the girls took their kit home to clean it, I had to pick up sandwiches, pay the referee out of my account, I was asked to drive the minibus. This is an incredible moment. We’ve had an amazing opportunity here.”
In the first half on Sunday their growth was evident. Rachel Furness and the captain, Josie Green, were the heartbeat of the Spurs attack. The latter sent a pass into the run of Kit Graham but the England centre-back Leah Williamson slid in to push the ball back to Manuela Zinsberger. A minute later Graham collected as she spun past Jen Beattie and was away, but Zinsberger read the run well and came out to smother.
In the second half Arsenal began to stretch Spurs. Daniëlle van de Donk, who scored a hat-trick in the 10-0 demolition two years ago, was at her battling best.
With 67 minutes played they found the breakthrough. A ball aimed at Miedema was knocked down to the edge of the box by a jumping Anna Filbey and Little switched on to her left and lashed low into the corner in front of 3,000 visiting fans.
Arsenal’s second came when Filbey’s stray back-pass put Miedema clean through. The forward coolly rounded Spencer and fired into the roof of the net.
“Being a fan, being a Gooner, I’m pleased,” said Montemurro. “We had to do it a little bit differently. We were our own worst enemy, turning the ball over a bit in the first half.
“It was a little bit interesting because we just didn’t get the distances right when we were building up, which was strange.”
It was patient and clinical from Arsenal in the end, but Spurs were pleased with how they acquitted themselves against the champions and with their vocal home support.
“The girls were outstanding,” said Hills. “Their concentration levels were second to none. We knew we’d have to deal with rotation of players. The execution was bang on.
“Arsenal changed their formation because they couldn’t get through. They couldn’t get Jordon Nobbs on the ball so they moved her in front of the back four and that was credit to us. But it was disappointing to concede those two goals.”