It has taken a few weeks for Manchester City to find their feet, but their 4-1 dismantling of Tottenham, just three days after they saw off title rivals Arsenal to earn their FA Cup final berth, indicated that new signings have been embedded and balance found.
Manager Gareth Taylor was keen for his team to start this Women’s Super League tie with the “same high energy” they demonstrated on Thursday night, and Chloe Kelly’s early warning in the sixth minute, before her double put City in the driving seat, showed his team had got the message.
Unleashed by Scotland forward Caroline Weir, Kelly cut inside and lashed at goal from the corner of the box, forcing a fine save from keeper Becky Spencer.
Kelly’s warning strike seemed to shake the visiting team awake, as they found their shape and did well to match the Man City high press when out of possession.
For those hoping for a showdown between last-minute Spurs signing Alex Morgan and her World Cup-winning teammates Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, there was disappointment.
“The hardest part about coming back after pregnancy is being patient with myself,” striker Morgan tweeted before the teams were announced. “I can’t wait to get on the pitch with my team, but that will have to wait until I’m 100% fit.”
In Tottenham’s 4-0 defeat by Arsenal the star forward sat warmly wrapped in the stands and was named on the bench, with co-manager Karen Hill having said they “felt it was really important for her to be around the girls – and just to get her mind in a match day environment.”
A trip to Manchester, away from five-month-old daughter Charlie and with the forward still fighting her way back to fitness, for a possible cameo from the bench was deemed to be too much too soon. The patience of her manager was perhaps wise given the huge scrutiny on the two-time World Cup winner.
However, Spurs are struggling for goals, and the longer that situation continues, the greater the pressure to rush Morgan in.
As England’s Kelly continued to provide the main threat for the home side there was space for the England forward Ellen White, who turned and rattled the crossbar from the edge of the area following a line-splitting pass from captain Steph Houghton.
Somewhat predictably, it was the dynamic Kelly who made the breakthrough. Having clashed toes with Spurs forward Kit Graham, Kelly recovered to collect the ball before switching onto her right foot and smashing in from the left, despite the fury from the Tottenham players with Graham still down injured.
In the second half City started to tear at the Spurs defensive block.
The gentlest of nudges in the back of Gemma Bonner saw them double their lead from the spot, the penalty executed by Kelly with a strange hop-skip-jump run up, and just two minutes later City had their third. A one-two with forward Janine Beckie, after a deflected effort from Kelly, saw Mewis lift her left-foot finish high into the net.
Shortly afterwards White rose highest to flick in, double her tally and extend the City lead.
A late corner saw the ball ricochet off Spurs defender Anna Filbey’s shoulder to claw a goal back, but it was a scrappy affair and was in any case too late to alleviate the pressure on the visiting team’s forwards.