Scottish Champions have no answer to Celtic’s Perfect Cup Final Performance

SWPL Cup Final: Glasgow City 0 Celtic 1…

After seeing off Partick Thistle, Hearts, theRangers and Hibs Fran Alonso and his Celtic side headed to Firhill today and a League Cup Final meeting with Glasgow City. It was a chance to win only Celtic’s second ever piece of silverware since the team’s formation in 2007 and it was against the dominant force in Scottish women’s football. This was a huge moment in Celtic’s history and a chance to lift a trophy for the first time since 2010.

It was a moment they grasped with both hands.

The starting XI for this most historic of encounters in Celtic FC Women’s short history was: Johnstone, Short, Clarke and Hayes, Bartle, Craig, Chance, Harkes, Jacynta Wellings and Larisey, and on the bench biding their time for a moment to influence the game were Logan, Shen, Toland, Atkinson, Gros, Bowie and McGovern.

The last time these sides met a second half Celtic performance resembled a challenging boxer getting the better of the longstanding champion but having to settle for a Las Vegas set of judges deeming the encounter a draw.

As Celtic emerged from the tunnel at Firhill today to flamethrowers and 3645 fans, the Celtic side looked up for the fight, epitomised by Jodie Bartle who looked every inch ready to land some blows. If that attitude was permeating to her teammates this was going to be a tough old gig for Glasgow City – and so it proved.

The start to the first half showed just that level of intent wasn’t exclusive to Jodie Bartle. Inside a minute a Chloe Craig cross was met by a superb Charlie Wellings header that Lee Alexander managed to touch onto the post. It was a vibrant start to the game from Celtic and Wellings was at it again just sixty seconds later as she managed a shot from a tight angle at goal, and although the clever pass may have to pass the ball to Olivia Chance in acres of space it was a sign of continued intent, and something City were struggling to cope with.

Three minutes in and it was a a third chance in as many minutes as Clarissa Larisey’s desire exceeded that of her marker, when from a Harkes weighted through ball the Canadian forward aimed for a sight of the bottom corner of the net only to see the Scotland ‘keeper again pull off a wonderful save. Then seconds later Wellings almost turned the ball home only to be flagged offside in what was a breathless start from the fast out the traps Hoops.

A goal was in the post and thankfully it deservedly came in the 25th minute as Sarah Harkes lofted a beautifully flighted free kick into the centre of the area, just out of the distance where Alexander could claim but perfect for a determined, and tall, centre half to meet the ball. Caitlin Hayes did just that, attacking the ball, meeting it flush and bulleting a header beyond Alexander, who appeared to dive for the effort sometime around the moment the ball was nestling in the back of the net.

By now there had been no real saves of note from Rachael Johnstone in the Celtic goal and Davidson and Chinchilla, the wide threats for City were doing more defending than the attacking as the first half seemed to be falling perfectly for Celtic. Yet a warning shot was fired just prior to half time as a Hayley Lauder free Kick saw a multitude of City players descend on Johnstone’s goal only for captain Kelly clark to defend valiantly as City’s Jenna Clark couldn’t set her feet quickly enough to connect.

Celtic then went in a goal to the good at half time and much the better side in the opening 45 minutes. The only concern would have been how much energy Celtic had expended in that first half and whether there would be enough in reserve to last another 45 minutes. Spoiler alert – they did and then some.

City did start strongly in a much more evenly contested second half as Fulutudilu within a minute headed for goal, however the bottle crashed as the City Number Nine was caught between shooting and passing, managed neither and blamed her teammates for her hesitancy. It was a costly error of judgement.

Within three minutes Sarah Harkes drove straight at Alexander who saved with her knew when either side of the ‘keeper and Celtic were two goals to the good, almost immediately Wellings floated an effort wide of goal with Larisey begging for the through ball and a clear effort on goal.

Jacynta then followed suit as she froze after a Wellings pass left her one on one with Alexander. The Scotland ‘keeper sensed the hesitancy and saved well. By now the profligacy in front of goal was a concern but it needn’t have been. Fulutudilu had the one chance that could have changed the course of history, yet stayed on her feet when a penalty for Kelly Clark’s challenge would have been inevitable. Instead Johnstone saved the shot and with no takers for the rebound City’s chance for a leveller was gone.

Celtic had further chances through Larisey who shot just wide and Jacynta,from a Short through ball that was just too heavy. And even despite a Hayes and Johnstone mix up and the preventable corner that resulted, City’s Walsh could only hit the bar from the set piece and Johnstone made up for her mistake by collecting the dropping ball. It was then the Cup was won.

This was a watershed moment for Celtic and Fran Alonso. Celtic had shown they were the new challenger the last time the sides met, with a second half response as unexpected as the first half collapse. There was a turning of the tide that day, but to deliver the knockout blow in a cup final was a big ask, yet Celtic did just that.

The times are very much a changing in Scottish football. The monkey is off the back. Silverware has been landed and Celtic are a team on the up.

For now, Fran Alonso and his team should enjoy every moment as they become Celtic’s History Ghirls. Yet you get the feeling this is just the beginning as Alonso’s Underdogs became Champions under the lights at Firhill. And my word we are proud of each and every one of those players who claimed their place in Celtic folklore tonight overcoming the one side who seemed to be a bridge too far for Celtic. That was until tonight, when Celtic emerged from the shadows and laid down a marker for a future that looks as bright as the football Fran Alonso’s side produced to lift the club’s first trophy since 2010.

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 the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

Comments are closed.