Yesterday I took in some football at Stamford Bridge as the Chelsea Women hosted Tottenham Hotspur Women in the Women’s Super League opener. A crowd of just under 25,000 turned up for the game which was even more impressively eclipsed by the Manchester derby which had an attendance of over 30,000. Tickets being free certainly helped but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the popularity of women’s football continues to grow.
It was nice to be at a football match where people weren’t shouting and swearing every two seconds with the crowd being made up of families coming for a day out, maybe by some who don’t regularly watch or attend football matches.
By a strange quirk of fate, I have seen two women’s football matches live and both have featured Tottenham; the first time was Portsmouth against Tottenham which was played for the first time at Portsmouth main ground Fratton Park back in 2013. I’m sensing a theme here.
The game started with a bang as Beth England scored with a glorious long range strike into the top corner and Chelsea dominated the early stages with that killer pass often lacking. Tottenham came back into the match forcing a good save in either half from Chelsea’s goalkeeper as Chelsea won 1-0.
The match felt like it was missing a second goal to really set the pattern to start a rout or make the game explode into life. If Chelsea had scored during their early dominance, the floodgates may well have opened while Tottenham scoring might have sparked both teams into frantic action.
The match was still an enjoyable watch though. The teams took it in terms to attack and even though Chelsea showed greater quality, Tottenham can consider themselves unlucky not to have taken a point from the game. A second goal from either team could have turned it into a goal fest.
You have to bear in mind that this was the season opener yet also following an international break so the players may not have been at their sharpest. Also this wasn’t an exhibition match; the teams were there to win to get the points so the tightness of the match reflected that.
Millie Bright and Fran Kirby are the two most mainstream English players Chelsea have although Kirby was injured for this match while the Scot Erin Cuthbert, a popular figure at Chelsea, only came on off the bench. I’ll admit to not recognising all the names on the Chelsea team sheet but for a start, the best players in Women’s football have started to become household names.
I don’t want to patronise when I compare it to Men’s football but the technical ability of women footballers has continued to improve and improve. The match I attended a few years ago wasn’t a high quality game but those were two non-professional teams at the time. There were more physical clashes than I expected too.
I can remember watching some Women’s football years ago and noted how goalkeeping was the poorest area of any team. With the World Cup and this match however, I can say that the goalkeeping has improved by a great margin.
Yes, the men’s game is faster and more intense but first and foremost we like watching sportspeople who have good technique and the women have shown that in abundance. Yesterday, there were a number of one-twos, flicks and smart turns that got a rise out of the crowd. The women have shown they can do it and broadcasters are giving them more and more coverage meaning that the game’s popularity will only grow bigger.