Celtic FC Women 1 theRangers 3. – Hoops Playing for pride with one eye on the Scottish Cup Final at Tynecastle on Sunday 29 May…
Celtic ended their SWPL1 season with a disappointing Glasgow Derby defeat to theRangers at Petershill Park this afternoon, as the Fran Alonso’s side struggled with both the physicality of their opponent and playing into the wind in equal measure in the opening 45 minutes, before failing to capitalise when the tables were turned in the second half – although it must be said some questionable refereeing also played its part.
The first chance of the match fell to theRangers and it was to be a sign of things to come, as the Celtic defence was bypassed entirely by a lofted central ball assisted by the wind, which found its way to Brogan Hay, who with the Celtic defence opened like the Red Sea, Hay thankfully failed to have the composure to capitalise, as theRangers wide player’s effort cleared Rachael Johnstone’s bar.
Four minutes later and Celtic created their first chance of note, as after afoul on Charle Wellings, a brilliant free kick to the back post from Liv Chance was met well by Caitlin Hayes and her cushioned header fell into the path of Chloe Craig, who was unlucky not to get the purchase required on her efforts and Jenna Fyfe in theRangers goal saved comfortably.
And within a minute Celtic were to regret the missed opportunity, when Charlie Wellings back helping her midfield lost her bearings entirely and presented the ball to theRangers Jane Ross, who in turn looked up to see Johnstone back peddling, and by the time the Celtic ‘keeper had tried to set her feet and position herself, Ross’ 25-yard effort was nestling in Johnstone’s right-hand corner of the net and the Hoops were one behind.
Worse was to follow as Cheyenne Shorts was penalised and booked for holding off Brogan Hay with her arm, and the referee awarded a free kick and issued a yellow card in a somewhat controversial decision. From the resultant free kick Debbie Vance sent an effort over the wall, and Johnstone in the Celtic goal was beaten by an effort that lacked pace and arrived centrally enough for the ‘keeper to have been reasonably expected to save. It was a poor goal to lose and Johnstone should have done better with Vance’s effort, but the award of the free kick was soft to say the least, whilst the decision to issue a yellow card was simply inexplicable.
By now Celtic were struggling to get their passes going on the ball, meanwhile out of possession lacked conviction and strength in the challenge. The right side of Celtic’s defence, the starting point of most attacks, lacked composure when pressed, meanwhile when theRangers were on the attack Jodie Bartle was too often left exposed by her defensive and offensive teammates as theRangers doubled up on Celtic’s right sided wing back. And it was from that side of the pitch Celtic were to concede another goal.
Moments after Johnstone made a fine point blank save from Jane Ross, there was no pressure put on Debbie Vance and she had all the time in the world to pick out Jane Ross as the attacker peeled off Caitlin Hayes and glanced a header past a flat-footed Rachael Johnstone who was left entirely exposed by the statuesque defending in front of her.
From 3-0 down Celtic now looked to grab a goal to give them something to build on in the second half, and Liv Chance showed the desire required when the New Zealander drove from the edge of her own box, through theRangers midfield all the way to the edge of theRangers box before sending a perfect pass for Mengyu Shen to run onto, however the Chinese international was far too easily brushed off the ball and the ball ran out for a goal kick.
Celtic then produced a brilliant piece of play, when after excellent persistence on the touchline the ball made its way to Izzy Atkinson who set free Charlie Wellings with a sight of goal, only for the striker to see her fine effort well saved by Jenna Fyfe.
Fran Alonso certainly had to intervene in this one, and Tegan Bowie and Natalie Ross were introduced half time for Izzy Atkinson and Chloe Craig, as Celtic were sent out with some fresh personnel – and going by the improvement in the second half – a flea in their ear from Fran Alonso.
Celtic started the second half strongly using the advantage the wind had given their opponents in the first half to their own in the second, with balls in behind the defence causing theRangers problems from the start of the half.
Liv Chance had the first opportunity of the second half, as after a foul on Jodie Bartle, the resultant free kick was on target but comfortably saved by Fyfe.
But there was a great deal more fight in this second half from the Hoops than exhibited in the first, and Celtic got themselves right back into the game after 52 minutes. A whipped in corner from Sarah Harkes found Catlin Hayes who powered a header past Fyfe and into the net with the Celtic defender exhibiting incredible desire to outpower and outjump her marker Ross to reach the ball.
And within a minute Celtic should have had a second. Shen, after fashioning space in the area laid the ball off well to Charlie Wellings, who having let the ball come across her body looked to have the perfect chance to score. The striker let rip with a powerful strike only to see Fyfe pull of a miraculous save to deny Wellings her 40th goal of the season.
This could have been something to build on for Celtic, and they did probe at theRangers defence, but the chances weren’t flowing, even with the assistance of the wind as it did for their rivals in the opening 45 minutes, but there was good reason for it. theRangers resorted to trying to win cheap fouls for minimal contact to break up Celtic’s momentum, and unfortunately for Celtic the referee was falling for it. One such moment saw Debbie Vance strike a free kick, after an award of a non-existent foul, however the shot was brilliantly saved, and indeed held, by Rachael Johnstone as the ball looked to be dipping in at the ‘keeper’s left-hand post.
Celtic then created two quick chances in succession, when first Chance showed tremendous control and rolled her marker at the corner of the 18-yard box, however the effort on goal didn’t quite match the inventiveness of the creation and Fyfe simply fell on the ball to save. Then seconds later Shen curled an effort from a similar angle that evaded theRangers defence, and goalkeeper Fyfe, but agonisingly also the far post.
With twelve minutes left a Kelly Clark pass from defence found Liv Chance on the turn and the midfielder’s deflected drive looked to be dropping under the crossbar, however Fyfe had her bearings correct and once again saved well.
And with five minutes left Celtic’s last chance went abegging as Jodie Bartle found space superbly at the back post to meet an excellent Tegan Bowie cross, only for the header to be blocked en-route to goal.
With the game petering out the last real incident was a booking for Sarah Harkes, as after once again a referee’s whistle met a falling player in blue and as Harkes beat the ground in frustration she was met by a grinning ref only too happy it seemed to hand out the caution.
The cliché would be to say this was a game of two halves and indeed it was. Both sides had the wind behind them in this one and theRangers used it to their advantage to carve out a three-goal lead at half-time. Celtic were buoyed by the introduction of Natalie Ross, who added much needed aggression to the middle of the park and Tegan Bowie who brought a directness to Celtic’s wide play, alongside some impressive cross balls, and both made a difference to Celtic in the second half, but in the end only one goal could be gained as the Hoops struggled to convert their chances, and theRangers broke up play buying cheap fouls the referee seemed all too happy to assist with.
With the SWPL1 campaign now over, and Celtic finishing the season some way back in third place, there will be plenty time to assess the league campaign, but for now focus for Fran Alonso and his team must now shift to a Scottish Cup Final with Glasgow City at the end of the month. With a domestic cup double the carrot there should be no reason for today’s defeat to theRangers to derail any plans for that.
Instead, the Celts should take heart from a second half performance that had the desire and strength that the first half missed, and focus on those positives as they prepare to face Glasgow City on Sunday 29 May must be the order of the day, meanwhile Natalie Ross, just back from injury and a key reason for the change in fortunes in the second half today, may well have played herself into cup final contention.
Here’s what Fran Alonso made of it all…
— Celtic FC Women (@CelticFCWomen) May 15, 2022
And here are the best of the images from today’s match, next stop Tynecastle on Sunday 29 May for the Women’s Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Glasgow City. Hope to see you there!