Celtic FC Women 4 Spartans 0…
Celtic FC Women headed in to today’s home league clash with Spartans with the chance to go top of the SWPL table, alongside the added bonus of looking down on the Rangers in the process. And Fran Alonso’s free scoring side didn’t let such an opportunity slip, with a 4-0 win over a team who had held Celtic to a draw in the corresponding fixture last season.
Celtic started this one with Pam Tajonar starting in goal, as the experienced Mexican international continued between the sticks due Rachael Johnstone’s continued absence through injury. And there was also the welcome return of New Zealand international Liv Chance to the starting eleven – alongside a start for 24-year-old midfielder Taylor Otto, signed from Racing Louisville this summer, and who was to play a goalscoring and creative role today – as well as impressing greatly alongside Lisa Robertson in Celtic’s midfield engine room.
The strength in depth of Celtic’s squad was further emphasised by new signing Liv Fergusson and Chinese international Shen having to settle for a place on the bench alongside the experienced Natalie Ross.
The opening 20 minutes saw the tightly packed back-five of the visitors limit Celtic to mainly chances from distance, although with clear overload opportunities on Celtic’s attacking left coming from Lucy Ashworth-Clifford.
However, a mix of poor deliveries from wide and poor positioning in the box saw Celtic’s obvious first half advantage fail to be capitalised on, this despite a high level of possession and a willingness to patiently probe at an opposition set up with damage limitation – and the hope of only the occasional counter-attack in mind.
The deadlock was however broken after 23 minutes, and when the goal arrived it was a cracker from Taylor Otto.
Jacynta was the player with the quick feet and creative mindset, as the Australian international fashioned space expertly on the edge of the box before delivering the ball into the danger area, where a clever Larisey lay-off found Otto on the edge of the box, who in turn drove a left footed finished past Alicia Yates in the Spartans goal to put Celtic into the lead.
Moments later and it could have been two as Larisey moved from provider to chance creator with a shot that was somewhat dragged, before ultimately being deflected behind. Yet it was clear the goal had now invigorated Celtic as well as creating doubt in the minds of a Spartans defence that had up until then carried their luck, but in the main held firm against a Celtic side who had almost complete control of the tempo of the game.
And just before half-time Celtic doubled their lead with the goal coming courtesy of Chloe Craig from the penalty spot for the second game in a row.
Amy Gallacher was the player felled in the area by Spartans Galbraith, after the defender had seen Celtic’s summer signing from Hibs shift the ball past two Spartans defender before Galbraith upended the Celtic attacker, for a penalty awarded without a single complaint from anyone in the Spartans side.
Craig then struck the penalty ferociously – and the power was required – as Yates, guessing the direction of travel correctly, managed to lay gloves on Craig’s effort from 12 yards, but there was too power behind the effort to keep the ball out the net.
A comfortable first half then for Celtic, who despite lacking accuracy occasionally in both passing and cross-ball deliveries into the box, alongside a missing ruthlessness when opportunities to have a shot at goal arose, took a deserved two goal lead into the half-time break.
And within a minute of the restart Celtic had the game finished as a contest, when following good work on the left from Clifford, Taylor Otto then laid the ball into the path of Jacynta. Larisey then made the clever run beyond the defence, Jacynta spotted it, fed her teammate with a perfectly weighted through ball, and Larisey finished past Yates with the sort of composed execution the build-up simply deserved. It was a superbly worked goal and a fast-paced start to the second half from a Celtic team who already looked far sharper than in the opening 45 minutes.
Further goals could have been added, particularly from an Ashworth-Clifford effort ruled out for offside and a Larisey attempt to chip Yates, when more composure would have resulted in the striker grabbing her second goal of the game, and soon after Amy Gallacher was forced from the game by an injury that looked a bad one, with Gallacher being replaced by Shen for the last 20 minutes of the game.
And Celtic’s fourth came once again from the penalty spot with four minutes left to play.
A dinked pass from Robertson found Larisey in the box and despite appearing to concede possession initially, soon emerged goal side of her marker who could only nudge the Canadian striker to the ground, leaving the referee with little choice but to point to the spot for the second time.
This time, with Chloe Craig substituted, the chance to convert was taken by Larisey herself – and after a short run up – finished a well-placed effort into the side netting and put Celtic four goals clear.
This was an important three points for Celtic. The Hoops are now looking down on theRangers in the SWPL table, meanwhile points dropped in this corresponding fixture last season ultimately saw Celtic drop valuable points in a title race that slipped away far too early.
On today’s evidence lessons from the last campaign have been hard learned, and as such there was no chance of a repeat today from this season’s squad, who even with the game to all intents and purposes being won by half-time, still continued to push for further goals.
There is a ruthless energy emerging from this Celtic team and with goal threats throughout the team, the goals for column this season will ultimately read far more favourably than it did last season.
Taylor Otto – a clear player of the match today – has fitted seamlessly into the Celtic midfield and looks a good foil for Lisa Robertson. Meanwhile, although the accuracy of the delivery didn’t always match the effort made in the build-up, Lucy Ashworth-Clifford looks another astute piece of transfer business from Fran Alonso, who certainly gets more right than he ever does wrong when it comes to player recruitment.
Next up for Celtic is a trip to Motherwell next weekend, but for now an impressive win over a team who have caused Celtic great difficulty to break down in the past, has been comfortably navigated – and Celtic FC Women now have a fine view looking down on the Rangers from the summit of the SWPL.