Chelsea newcomer Mia Fishel said it was a “dream come true” to score on her debut as her side began their title defence with an entertaining derby victory over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.
American forward Fishel, who moved to London from Mexican club Tigres this summer, headed home on 28 minutes from Niamh Charles’ inch-perfect cross into the box.
“I’m playing for my dream club with these players. I’ve been here a month and I’m excited,” Fishel told Sky Sports.
“I had no doubts about starting and that’s kudos to Emma [Hayes] and the team for making me feel welcome.
“The intensity is different from the Mexican league. We don’t get a lot of time on the field. Take more than two touches here and you’re going to get smashed, that’s the major difference.”
Lauren James poked in following a scramble in the area six minutes after half-time to double Chelsea’s lead on the opening day of the Women’s Super League season.
Replays showed the ball had crossed the line when Guro Reiten bundled in but, in the absence of goalline technology, the Blues had to come again and James made sure by steering in a close-range volley.
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes said it is “embarrassing” that Reiten’s goal was not given when “everyone in the stadium knows it has gone in”.
“I want to know why we are not investing in it,” she told Sky Sports. “Yes there is always room for human error but that is what VAR should be there for.
“I said to the fourth official, ‘I bet you are glad that James scored straight away’.
“If this is the top level of football, the Premier League of women’s football, we need to have VAR in all games.”
Tottenham pulled one back in the 76th minute when Martha Thomas pounced on a Zecira Musovic blunder, but could not find an equaliser despite piling the pressure on the home side.
Chelsea were without star striker Sam Kerr but England midfielder Fran Kirby came on as a substitute to make her first appearance since February, having missed the World Cup through injury.
Hayes’ side are going for an unprecedented fifth consecutive WSL title.
A new-look Tottenham started the match well with forward Thomas, who joined from Manchester United this summer, looking lively.
She produced a good save from Musovic just before half-time and had a reasonable penalty claim when Millie Bright brought her down in the area.
But Chelsea showed why they remain title favourites with a high-tempo approach and enviable squad depth.
James was always keen to drive into the area and saw two efforts from around the box flash wide before hammering another off the bar. Substitute Jelena Cankovic also had a goal chalked off for offside.
Molly Bartrip then had to clear a Jess Carter flick from a corner off the line, while Reiten, the WSL’s top assist maker last season, was a constant threat around the 18-yard box.
New Spurs manager Robert Vilahamn spoke before the season about wanting to play “offensive” football and, after a disappointing ninth-place finish last season, this team look to have already made great strides under the Swede.
Grace Clinton saw a curled effort saved well and when Musovic could not get another of the midfielder’s powerful shots under control, Thomas was alert to slot home.
Spurs pursued an equaliser, with Thomas again going close and Jessica Naz driving a low effort that was palmed away by Swedish keeper Musovic.
Fishel and James take centre stage in Kerr absence
In recent years, the image of the net bulging thanks to a Kerr moment of brilliance has become synonymous with Chelsea’s trophy-winning exploits.
Hayes’ side have won six WSL titles in the last eight years and added five FA Cups and two Continental Cups in the same period.
Having scored more than 25 goals across all competitions in each of the last three seasons, Australian Kerr has played a major part in their recent success.
But she picked up an injury during this summer’s World Cup in her home nation and Hayes said on Friday the forward is “a little behind” in her recovery.
In her absence, 22-year-old Fishel stepped up and, while it was not Chelsea’s best performance and the American forward will need time to settle, she looks to be the latest solid addition to the impressive squad.
England international James looked to have put any World Cup lethargy behind her and combined well with Fishel in what could prove to be the latest destructive Chelsea partnership.
Chelsea boss Hayes said the pair have “gelled quickly” but still have work to do.
“They are going to be watching a lot of tapes this week. There were things I wasn’t happy with in the first half – not in possession, out of possession,” she said.
“But, a brilliant debut from Mia and the connection with Lauren was there to see throughout.
“She was a bit out of the game for the first 15-20 minutes but when she did feel her way into it, her connection with Lauren was excellent.”
Hayes did, however, say she was “disappointed” with the performance at times and that she would look forward to a week of training before facing Manchester City next week.
“I thought it was laboured first half,” she said. “But that is normal after an international break. It is hard to get into that rhythm – those connections take time to build.
“I am disappointed with it because I expect us to have more control even when we don’t get that third goal in a game.
“But we haven’t had a lot of time training and that is why you have seen a mixed bag of performances.”