Fran Alonso continues Champions League prep with well-earned win over Sunderland

The Celtic hierarchy is being nothing if not even handed when it comes to new recruits this season. On the back of the men’s team announcing the signing of four first team additions for Ange Postecoglou, Fran Alonso it appears is also getting the financial backing his efforts have deserved as Celtic announced a fourth signing just prior to taking on Sunderland in their third pre-season friendly this evening, in a game Celtic emerged with a well-earned 1-0 win at The Academy of Light on Wearside.

18-year-old Icelandic attacker María Catharina Ólafsdóttir Gros signed from Thor KA and not only that she also went straight into the starting line-up for this evening’s game.

Ólafsdóttir Gros joins Irish international midfielder Tyler Toland and England under 21 cap and striker Charlie Wellings in Alonso’s side, as well as the exciting addition of versatile midfielder Shen Mengyu from Shanghai Shengli FC.

Mengyu in fact became the first female Chinese player to sign for club in the UK as Celtic beat Spurs to the punch by a mere two minutes to that accolade, as the North London club announced their own Shanghai Shengli signing as Tang Jiali signed up for the English side.

Celtic haven’t focussed entirely on acquiring new talent either they’ve also been rewarding those who performed well for Fran Alonso last season as both Chloe Warrington, who scored the only goal of the game this evening, and Tegan Bowie signed well-earned first professional contracts for the Hoops after breakthrough seasons in 20/21. And outstanding defender Jodie Bartle has put pen to paper on a new deal, one that will ensure referees and opponents eardrums will continue to take a battering for at least another year. An added bonus to that particular deal!

Two of the new signings joining Gros in this evening’s starting line-up were Toland and Wellings in a game where Celtic started strongly despite a goalless first half.

Young Tegan Bowie was busy for Celtic on the left-hand side and the first real chance fell to Olafsdottir Gros who had a close effort denied by a defensive block in the box. Wellings then forced a save from the Sunderland ‘keeper before Caitlin Hayes headed an opportunity wide of goal with the last opportunity of the opening period.

The second half lost early momentum as the system of rolling subs in operation impacted on the fluency of the game but there were opportunities for Celtic.

Izzy Atkinson delivered a great free kick that Hayes headed over the bar and Jacynta also tested the Black Cats ‘keeper’s reflexes with an effort from distance before Atkinson again was involved, and somewhat unlucky, as her freekick attempt from well outside the area from range nearly dropped in.

Celtic had further opportunities as Wellings came desperately close from a corner kick and no-one could connect despite an excellent cross from Chloe Warrington before Warrington herself celebrated that first professional contract with the opening goal of the game with 13 minutes left, however we’ll have to wait for the post-match interview as to whether the goalscoring effort was ultimately a cross or a shot – ‘fess up Chloe!

And Celtic didn’t drop off in their efforts as the Hoops high press forced their opponents onto the back foot and further chances fell to Gros, having an impressive debut, who covered the ground but could only find the side netting and both Sarah Teegarden and Rachel Donaldson both came close to extending the lead as Celtic continued to exhibit a tidy passing game allied to the continued pressure on the tiring Sunderland backline.

This encounter was all about fitness with Celtic heading into a Champions League qualification game against Spanish side Levante, who finished third the Spanish top flight last season, in Trondheim on the 18th of August, before the bread and butter of the SWPL begins with an opening day away trip to newly promoted Aberdeen followed by a huge encounter only two games into the new season, as Celtic go head to head with 14 in a row champions Glasgow City at Celtic’s new ‘home’ Penny Cars stadium in Airdrie. Goodbye K-Park.

It always seems these two clubs go head-to-head early doors but this time, with last season’s City boss Scott Booth heading to Birmingham City and being replaced by their previous assistant boss Grant Scott, it may mean Celtic will have an edge over their rivals being in a transitional phase. That said it should be pointed out Scott has won two domestic cup doubles in charge of Hibernian and guided them into the Women’s Champions League, so it’s not as if he doesn’t know his onions!

It will be both a fast and tough start to the season for Fran Alonso and Celtic and games like tonight will go a long way to ensuring they are ready to hit the ground running when the big games come so early in the season. The addition of some quality international signings not only will help with that, they also show backing for Fran Alonso as he looks to build Celtic into a side capable of qualifying for the Champions League and mounting a title challenge again this season.

But it was one of our home-grown talents delivering the goods in the North-East of England tonight as Chloe Warrington delivered a single goal victory for Celtic. A fine way to start life as a fully-fledged professional.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parhead's gates.

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