SWPL Cup holders Hibernian progressed to the final of the SSE Scottish Women’s Cup with a 5-0 win over SWPL 2 side Hearts.
Despite the scoreline, the game was far tougher for the SWPL 1 side. Hearts’ pressing often forced Hibs into errors and they made things very tough in the first half, so much so that Hibs made four changes at half-time. Hibs lead at half-time was just about deserved through Rachel McLauchlan’s goal, but the Jambos couldn’t deal with Hibs’ energy in the second half. Lizzie Arnot scored a hat-trick to take the game away from Hearts before Sarah Ewens scored late on in the second half.
Hearts began the game displaying the attitude they would require to have any chance of causing an upset by pressing the Hibs’ defense high up the pitch, closing down players and trying to draw mistakes out of them.
This tactic left gaps behind their full-backs though which allowed Abi Harrison and Rachel McLauchlan to run into, and soon Harrison was finding her shooting range. From the edge of the box, she saw her deflected shot curl agonisingly wide and then she had a 35-yard effort saved by Hearts’ keeper Ashley Watson.
Then McLauchlan’s cross picked out Harrison on the left side of the box. She beat her defender but couldn’t beat the keeper from a narrow-angle.
Hibs came close to that opening goal in the 22nd minute when Cailin Michie had her header cleared off the line, and then Elis Notely’s corner picked out Sarah Ewens but her shot was saved low down by Ashley Watson.
Hibernian eventually took the lead when Harrison’s cross fell to McLauchlan who was left with a simple finish from close range.
Hibs made four changes at half-time, looking to inject more pace into their attack with Scottish internationals Lizzie Arnot, Lucy Graham, Joelle Murray, and Kirsty Smith coming on. Arnot nearly made an immediate impact, having her shot saved from close range.
Kirsty Smith broke down the wing and crossed to Sarah Ewens who, sliding in at the near post, could only direct her shot wide.
Hibs kept on pressing for their second and Michie saw her header blocked on the line by Jamie-Lee Smith, before Ewens had another glorious chance but heading just wide.
Hibs did get their second shortly after. Inside the box, Michie squared to Ewens whose shot was well saved by Watson, but the ball fell to Michie whose own shot smashed off the underside of the bar. But Michie was then brought down by Megan Paterson and Arnot converted the penalty.
Emma Brownlie came close to heading in Hibs’ third but saw her effort well saved by Watson’s legs.
Hibernian kept on pressing and Murray came close when Arnot’s corner picked her out at the near post, but the defender could only volley wide.
They eventually did get their third as Ewens broke into the box and she prodded the ball towards Arnot who slid the ball under the keeper.
Arnot then completed her hat-trick when she was given room to run into and then from the edge of the box she fired the ball into the bottom corner.
Late on in stoppage time, Ewens finally got the goal her play had deserved. Kirsty Smith’s cross was knocked on by Michie to Ewens who blasted the ball into the roof of the net.
Hibs’ Head Coach Chris Roberts:
“First of all, I think Hearts made things really difficult for us. They were really compact and surprised us with how high up they pressed, we didn’t expect them to press us so high, they put us under pressure and they’ve got good pace going forward… It was a really tough first half.”
Hearts: Watson; Lyndsey Anderson, Pagliarulo (Hughes 53), Paterson, Jamie-Lee Smith (Kidd 61); Hutchison, Walkingshaw, Stewart (Rebecca Smith 66), Mason (Mcalonie 57); Carse, Brogan Anderson (Summers 79).
Subs not Used: Burns
Hibernian: Fife; Williamson, Hunter (Murray HT), Brownlie, Leishman (Kirsty Smith HT); Michie, Robertson Notely (Graham HT); Harrison (Turner 80), Ewens, McLauchlan (Arnot HT)
Reported by Tim Oliver