Tottenham ambition clear as manager makes vow after FA Cup final defeat

Tottenham were beaten in the Women's FA Cup final
Tottenham were beaten in the Women's FA Cup final -Credit:Photo by Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

As the players took to the pitch at a gloriously sunny Wembley Stadium, a banner was unfurled in the lower West Stand.

"Dream. Dare. Do," was the stirring message from the Tottenham Hotspur supporters, feverish at the prospect of seeing their team win a first major trophy. Certainly, on Spurs' road to the Women's FA Cup final, they have made those three words their mission statement, toppling behemoths Manchester City along the way.

But on Sunday afternoon, their hopes of crowning a campaign of huge promise with some silverware ground to a chastening halt with a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United. It was, in the eyes of many, the expected outcome and yet, as the Spurs players trudged up the Wembley steps to collect their runners-up medals, the sting of disappointment was almost palpable.

“It was a tough one,” manager Robert Vilahamn admitted after the game. “We competed for the first half, but when they score for 2-0 and 3-0 we cannot compete anymore. It’s a final, we wanted to go for it.

“But, on the other hand, we are in a final, and we’ve been doing some good stuff this year. Right now I’m down. I wanted to compete and win the title today. We will learn from this tough loss. Man United were really good, and sometimes you need to give it to the opponent.”

Certainly, few would have expected Tottenham to make it this far. They spent much of last season flirting with relegation, losing nine straight Women's Super League (WSL) before manager Rehanne Skinner was replaced by interim boss Vicky Jepson.

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This term, under the stewardship of Vilahamn - who arrived from Swedish side BK Hacken last summer - they have been looking up the table rather than over their shoulders. They have defied the odds to reach the last two of the country's premier cup competition and are guaranteed a top-half WSL finish. Ending the season with a trophy would have been the most unexpected of bonuses.

Still, as Vilahamn himself alluded to before the final, Tottenham were not just there to make up the numbers. And, as chairman Daniel Levy watched from the Directors' Box and the tens of thousands of Spurs supporters made themselves heard in the stands, it was hard to escape the fact that this was a was a chance to achieve sporting immortality.

Tottenham started well and, despite never having beaten United before, set the tone for a battling first-half display when the lively Matilda Vinberg fired just over the crossbar. The Swede was Spurs' most threatening attacking outlet in the opening stages, almost teeing up semi-final hero Martha Thomas before heading wide from a superb Ashleigh Neville cross.

It was not just Vilahamn's side, though, who were guilty of being profligate. At the other end of the pitch, Rebecca Spencer saved from Leah Galton before Rachel Williams nodded over the bar from the resulting corner. Millie Turner and Ella Toone both came close but the Tottenham defence fought valiantly to keep the red tide at bay.

The dam burst, however, when Toone took aim from 20 yards out in first-half stoppage-time, rifling a stunning effort past Spencer and into the top corner. Truthfully, it was a gut-wrenching blow from which Vilahamn's side never recovered.

Spurs' misery was further compounded nine minutes into the second-half when Williams diverted Katie Zelem's cross into the back of the net. Then, with hopes of a comeback already dwindling, goalkeeper Spencer swung the pendulum even further in United's favour, her loose back-pass promptly seized upon by Lucia Garcia who made no mistake with her cool finish to make it 3-0.

The Spaniard found the back of the net again 16 minutes from time to really underscore the Reds' dominance. And, while the scoreline was arguably harsh on Spurs, it was impossible to refute that United were fully deserving of their victory.

“If you remove the feelings today and summarise this next week, you know we’re going to be quite happy with an FA Cup final and sixth place in the league," Vilahamn said. “We have done a great season and we keep building. This is not the end, this is just the beginning.”

When the post-match post-mortem begins at Hotspur Way on Monday morning, the Tottenham boss will no doubt feel his side fell way short of their best on Sunday afternoon. That Spurs failed to record a single shot on target will likely be a cause of frustration, as will the fact they spurned a number of good first-half chances.

And yet, once the dust has settled, the presiding feeling will surely be pride. With Vilahamn at the helm, Spurs have 'Dreamed' and 'Dared'. Now they must ensure that, when they get they their next shot of glory, they are primed to 'Do' as well.