McCulloch og 49, Davidson 53
Celitc were hugely disappointed to lose this derby by 2-1 in spite of a spirited performance. Although there was nothing between the teams in the first half, two early second-half goals for Rangers put the Hoops on the back foot and although they made a huge push in the final quarter of the match, all they had to show was a last-minute strike from Ruesha Littlejohn.
After a summer break which had been extended to nine weeks due to international commitments, there were signs of lack of match-action in both sides as the match began.
An early surge from Alex Middleton down the right earned Celtic a corner after three minutes when her dangerous cross was headed behind by a defender.
For a time, Rangers had the edge as they attacked with pace and had several shots without troubling keeper Megan Cunningham. After 10 minutes, however, Cunningham made a wonderful save, touching a fierce, dipping shot over her crossbar.
During this opening spell, Jamie-Lee Napier and Sarah Ewens for Celtic were looking lively and eager to receive the ball, though opportunities to score were scarce. Cunningham again kept the Hoops on level terms in 19 minutes when she read a dangerous situation superbly, closed down the advancing Davidson, and deflected the shot with her feet.
The game was being fiercely contested and the flow was interrupted time and again by free kicks. Natalie Ross was in the thick of things in centre-midfield for Celtic but the area was really congested and both teams were now finding it difficult to open up play.
Georgie Rafferty twice hit powerful shots at goal from distance but neither was on target. There was a moment of excitement for the Hoops after 42 minutes when Ross put the ball into the net from close-in following a free kick. Celebrations were cut short when it was realised that an offside flag against Ewens had been raised earlier.
The game remained goal-less at the interval, although both teams had put great energy into the 45 minutes.
Within four minutes of the restart Rangers took the lead when Sinclair found herself in space behind the Hoops defence. Her firm cut-back was deflected into goal by Cheryl McCulloch, playing in her first match for Celtic.
A few minutes later Celtic were two goals in arrears. A clever ball over the Celtic defence was gathered by Davidson wide on the right and she advanced with great pace before finding the roof of the net from an acute angle. The ferocity of the shot gave goalkeeper Cunningham no chance at all.
Gradually Celtic began to control possession and the Rangers defence was tested as Celtic mounted several dangerous attacks without really pressurising Rangers’ keeper. A Littlejohn shot was blocked after 64 minutes. Shortly after that, the same player appeared to have done everything right as she dribbled into the penalty area and rounded the goalkeeper, but to everyone’s surprise she poked the ball into the side net.
Celtic had the ball in the net again after 72 minutes when substitute Heather Richards broke clear, but she was ruled offside.
Throughout final 10 minutes, Celtic frantically tried to save the game, getting forward time after time, but although chances were created, none were taken. After a real scramble in the Rangers six-yard box in the final minute of the 90, Littlejohn fired home what was to be just a consolation goal.
Celtic: Megan Cunningham, Rafferty (Richards), Whyte, McCulloch, Middleton (Connor), Clark, Ross, Littlejohn, Hayley Cunningham, Napier, Ewens. Subs: Gibson, Fitzsimmons, Nagle.
Report & Picture: Celtic FC