Smith 5, Graham 34, McLauchlan 46, Small 78
It was a disappointing day for Celtic as they went down 4-1 to Hibernian in the League Cup final. After losing an early goal, they fought back within a couple of minutes with a goal from Ruesha Littlejohn, but thereafter found it difficult to create clear-cut chances.
Hibs edged ahead for a 2-1 interval lead, increased that lead immediately after the break and added a fourth late in the match.
It certainly was an exciting start to a cup final with both sides on the score sheet after only seven minutes. Hibs hit the opener in the fifth minute when Kirsty Smith sent a shot high into the Hoops net. The response from Celtic was immediate and positive. Littlejohn gathered the ball on the left, cut into the penalty area and calmly rolled the ball beyond the reach of Hibs keeper Fife.
With the score 1-1 before some of the spectators had taken their seats, the scene was set for a thrilling cup final. As the game settled into a pattern, a contrast between the styles of play became evident. Celtic’s combative midfield of Darcy McFarlane, Natalie Ross and Kerry Montgomery were seeing lots of the ball and feeding wide players Littlejohn and Sarah Crilly. They were unable, in the main, however, to create clear-cut chances.
Hibs for their part were moving the ball forward quickly at every opportunity and their strong, pacy attackers were a constant threat. One shot from Turner hit the side-netting with the crowd thinking she had scored.
Celtic managed to work the Hibs keeper with a Littlejohn shot from distance, but it was knocked away to safety. The game ebbed and flowed with possession equally shared but it was Hibs who made a further breakthrough after 34 minutes. Several shots were blocked by the Hoops defence before Graham finished give the Edinburgh side a 2-1 lead.
Celtic’s response was a fierce shot from Ross which was blocked by a Hibs defender’s foot at full stretch. Hibs held their lead until half time, with the game still in the balance.
The second period began with a shock for Celtic when, with a swift attack down the left, Hibs increased their lead after only one minute. A cross was sent into the penalty area and McLauchlan was on hand to put her side 3-1 to the good.
Celtic continued to fight for every ball, but were still finding it difficult to create chances. Several corners were won, but a long-range strike from Crilly and a Littlejohn shot over the bar were the nearest they came to scoring.
Small settled the issue for Hibs with 12 minutes left when, after several blocked attempts she eventually beat keeper Cunningham from close in to make the final score 4-1.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Celtic, playing in their first cup final for seven years. There was no little effort from the Hoops, with skipper Kelly Clark, strong in the tackle and leading by example. Playing in such a high-profile match, though, will have encouraged the players, and they will doubtless redouble their efforts in the next few months.
Celtic: Cunningham, Poucel, Whyte, Clark, Napier, Crilly, Ross, McFarlane, Littlejohn, Mulvey, Napier. Subs: Gibson, Richards, Howat, Fulton, Ewens, Dalgliesh, Rafferty.
Report & Picture: Celtic FC