Southampton FC Women suffered defeat in their final match of 2022, narrowly losing out 1-0 to Tottenham Hotspur at St Mary’s Stadium in the FA Continental Tyres League Cup.
Tottenham proved the more clinical in a match that was otherwise evenly contested, Nikola Karczewska rolling home her cool finish after 26 minutes to ensure her side a 1-0 victory and progression in the competition.
Southampton came into the match free of any pressure, having already exited the Conti Cup following defeats to Coventry United and Reading in October and November respectively. However, Women’s Super League outfit Spurs could earn their progression into the quarter-finals with a victory.
Despite a fighting start from both camps, the first opportunity of the afternoon fell the way of Spurs striker Karczewska, who managed to get the toe of her boot onto an in-swinging cross toward the far post but couldn’t direct the ball beyond Kayla Rendell in Saints’ net, who clutched gratefully from close range.
Nearing the 10 minute mark Lauren Phillips, temporarily filling in for Marieanne Spacey-Cale over the Christmas period, would have been thrilled with the encouraging start of her team. Saints’ latest venture toward goal resulted in a shooting opportunity for Ella Pusey from just outside the box, but her curling, right-footed effort was watched and held well by experienced Finland international Tinja-Riikka Korpela.
The host’s positive football would continue to restrict the visitors of opportunities until the 23rd minute, when Spurs stepped on the gas. Kerys Harrup went within inches of opening the scoring, the defender stooping at the near post to meet a low cross before flicking her header cleverly over Rendell and onto the top of her crossbar.
Not two minutes later and Saints were pressed back once again. Karczewska enjoyed two chances in quick succession this time, her initial blast denied well by Rendell following a skilful run and pass from Chioma Ubogagu, but the goalkeeper could do nothing about her second attempt, which was tucked away expertly.
It came from yet another in-swinging cross from the left flank, which the striker this time managed to take down well with her chest before showing fine strength to hold off the challenge of Rosie Parnell and roll her effort, eye-to-eye with Rendell, effortlessly into the bottom corner after 26 minutes.
Undeterred by the score line, Saints remained focused throughout the remaining minutes of the first half and continued pressuring the ball with intent. That was epitomised by Pusey, who just moments before the interval nearly found the ball presented to her via the stray pass of Korpela, who will have been mightily relieved to see her mishit pass squirm to safety.
The only change ahead of the second half was made by the away bench, So-Hyun Cho replacing Rosella Ayane for the remaining 45.
Unlike the first half, Saints were the team who enjoyed early openings in the second. Following some handy defending in the 51st minute, Sophia Pharoah was allowed time and space in the middle of the park to cruise clear with the ball and spread her pass into the feet of Beth Lumsden on the left wing, the attacker controlling well before expertly driving inside the box, shifting onto her right-foot and firing goalward, but not with enough precision to beat Korpela.
With heavy rain continuing to batter the sodden pitch as the minutes grew beyond 70, both teams struggled to keep possession and subsequently create chances at this crucial point of the encounter; Spurs looking to seal all three points with a second goal, while Saints battled for a share of the spoils.
With time running out, Leeta Rutherford tried her luck in the 83rd minute with a right-footed longshot from 30-yards which zipped toward the top corner, but the goalkeeper was well positioned to snatch the ball out of the air, keeping her side’s lead intact.
With Saints on top in the dying embers of the match, half chances would fall to Pharoah, Goergie Freeland and Lucia Kendall, but none could convert amid the presence of Spurs’ solid defence, who remained committed to defending their 1-0 advantage until Ella Broad’s final whistle.
A losing end to 2022 for Saints, but a performance and a year to be proud of nonetheless.