Sports

Kate Longhurst’s late goal for West Ham damages Tottenham’s WSL title bid


The lifelong West Ham fan Kate Longhurst’s looping header deep into injury time rescued a point against Tottenham, denying their London rivals the chance to move up to second in the WSL.

The Hammers were forced to play the final 24 minutes with 10 players after the defender Hawa Cissoko received two yellow cards, either side of also conceding the penalty.

Tottenham looked to have earned a win after Rosella Ayane’s penalty had given them the lead in the feisty encounter but Rehanne Skinner’s side have still surpassed last season’s points tally at the halfway mark.

Longhurst had done her best to boost the budding rivalry between the Tottenham and West Ham women’s teams prior to the game, with the French defender Cissoko telling Sky Sports that her teammate left the coaches and players silent following a powerful pre-match talk ahead of the reverse fixture. “We have to smash them because she’s going to kill us,” Cissoko said matter of factly of this game. Dagny Brynsjardottir had given the Hammers a first win over their London rivals in November and there was no love lost between the two teams from the off at Barnet.

Rosella Ayane scores Tottenham's first goal against West Ham.
Rosella Ayane scores Tottenham’s opener from the spot. Photograph: Paul Childs/Action Images/Reuters

Tottenham arguably edged the first half, with the forwards Jess Naz and Ayane particularly bright, but they struggled to test West Ham’s New Zealand goalkeeper Anna Leat, who was playing her first WSL game in the absence of Asian Cup bound Mackenzie Arnold.

Ayane went closest for Spurs just before the break, but when she was released on the right, she took her shot quickly and flashed the ball high and wide.

Despite the pressure, Olli Harder’s West Ham looked relatively untroubled and had the best chance of the half when the unmarked centre-back Grace Fisk headed over from close range after Brynsjardottir headed back across goal for her.

Sensing the problems, with West Ham struggling to hold onto the ball in the middle and Spurs lacking enough threat up front, both teams made changes going into the second half with Zaneta Wyne, who played under Harder at Norwegian team Klepp IL, on in the middle and Tottenham’s top scorer Rachel Williams called upon to improve the Spurs attack.

It would be Spurs that would reap the rewards for their continued pressure in the second half. Already on a yellow card, and perhaps too fired up by Longhurst, the defender Cissoko clattered into the back of on-loan Tang Jiali, conceding a penalty but staying out of the book, and Ayane fired the spot kick into the bottom corner and just out of reach of the diving Leat.

Three minutes later and Cissoko was gone for the second time this season, receiving her second yellow for dissent, having booted away the ball after she felt she was unfairly penalised for a foul on Naz.

With injury time well underway though, Longhurst’s stunning header from Byrnsjardottir’s cross ensured West Ham share the spoils and put the team one point shy of the 15 they accumulated across the course of last season.



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