(Ross 37, Poucel 51)
Stirling University 1
This much-anticipated match at Celtic Park turned out to be an entertaining occasion with the Hoops largely in control throughout the 90 minutes. Goals from Natalie Ross and Jaclyn Poucel had put Celtic comfortably ahead before a very late goal from the visitors caused unexpected excitement in the dying moments.
Celtic set the tone early in the game, pressing forward at every opportunity and using the unaccustomed width of the pitch to their advantage. During the first quarter of the match, Heather Richards was the home side’s greatest threat as, time and again she put the Stirling defence under pressure with her forceful, intelligent runs down the right touchline, and several dangerous crosses and cut-backs.
Midfielders Ross and Darcy McFarlane also caught the eye, as they intelligently spread the ball wide to play in both Richards and 16-year old Jamie-Lee Napier, who was making her first start for the first team on the left.
Ruesha Littlejohn and Sarah Ewens both had shots at goal but did not trouble the Stirling keeper. The visitors, for their part, mounted several counter-attacks at pace, but the Celtic defence were alert to the danger before goalkeeper Megan Cunningham had to be called into action.
With Richards’ early prominence, it was no surprise that she was the architect of Celtic’s opening goal. Following yet another drive to the bye-line, she laid the ball back into the path of Natalie Ross who struck a fierce right-footed shot high into the net.
At that stage it looked as if Celtic would use their goal advantage and comfortable possession to increase their lead before half-time. Although they relentlessly drove forward, they were unable to stretch the Stirling defence and the score remained at 1-0 at the break.
The Hoops continued to drive forward after the interval, winning some corners in the process. It was following one of these set-pieces that they increased their lead. The initial delivery was well-defended by the University, but after an exchange of passes in the Celtic midfield, the ball was rolled out to Richards on the left and her inch-perfect delivery was flashed into the net from the head of Jaclyn Poucel who celebrated her first Celtic goal in some style.
After good play by Napier, Littlejohn saw a close-range shot come back off the post, while another shot from Richards, a long range strike from Napier and try from substitute Kirsty Howat all failed to increase Celtic’s lead as they continued to control the match and move forward at every opportunity.
The home side were reduced to 10 players in 84 minutes when Littlejohn was shown a straight red card for words directed at the referee. At this stage there were signs of tiredness in both teams, but their numerical advantage encouraged Stirling to have a final surge. They were rewarded right on 90 minutes when Russell scored for them.
However, there was little time left for an upset, though, and Celtic continued their fine opening to the league season with all three points. Playing at Celtic Park was a great occasion for the players and spectators alike and everyone very much enjoyed the experience.
CELTIC: Cunningham, Hodges (Rafferty), Poucel, Clark, Ross, Montgomery, McFarlane, Ewens (Howat), Richards (Crilly), Napier, Littlejohn.
Subs: Gibson, Dalgliesh, McBrearty, Whyte.
Reported by Celtic FC
Picture: Celtic FC