(Howat 2, Littlejohn)
Celtic brushed aside their disappointment at the previous week’s Scottish Cup defeat with a bright, enterprising display which set Spartans back on their heels from the very start.
Two cleverly-taken goals from Kirsty Howat and a Ruesha Littlejohn penalty earned the Hoops a well-merited 3-0 victory.
There was no sign of a hangover from the previous week as Celtic immediately poured forward in numbers to take the game to Spartans with Howat and Sarah Ewens prominent on the two flanks. Two corners were won in the early stages without troubling Spartans keeper Harrison, although she had to look lively to punch the ball clear after eight minutes.
Spartans were seldom able to test the Celtic defence, and the nearest they came to causing trouble was a free kick from distance which was confidently caught by Megan Cunningham.
Celtic continued to attack at every opportunity and a goal was beginning to look inevitable. That goal came in 19 minutes, and it was a strike of great skill from Howat, who burst clear of the Spartans central-defenders, drew the goalkeeper and calmly side-footed the ball into the net.
For all their clever play and control of the game, Celtic were finding it difficult to test the goalkeeper. A searing drive from midfielder Natalie Ross failed to find the target in 24 minutes.
The same player was prominent again only three minutes later when she powered her way into the penalty area only to be halted by a clumsy tackle resulting in a penalty which Littlejohn struck home confidently.
With Celtic now in total control of the game, an athletic Littlejohn volley was tipped over the bar by the equally agile Harrison after 29 minutes.
Spartans’ only reply was again from a free-kick which was gathered by Cunningham at full stretch. By now a swirling wind and very heavy rain were making it difficult, but Celtic finished the first half with two further corners.
In typical East Kilbride fashion, the wind and rain had given way to bright sunshine when the game resumed, and this change was reflected in Spartans’ play. The Edinburgh side started much more confidently, and for the first time the Celtic back four had to do some hard work.
In the 51st minute, a chance fell to striker Suzanne Mulvey who ran on to a clever pass from centre-back Courtney Whyte, but her powerful shot flew over the bar.
Shortly after that, Howat effectively ended any hopes of a Spartans recovery when she took full advantage of a pass from Ross and deftly fired the ball high into the net for the best goal of the afternoon.
Thereafter the game settled to a more leisurely pace, with Celtic having several opportunities to increase their lead but these were not taken as the attempts were lacking accuracy.
The best of these chances fell to Littlejohn, who strode on to a pinpoint cutback from Ewens but her shot from close in flew over the bar.
On another occasion, substitute Heather Richards looked to be clear of the defence, but she was eventually crowded out.
Celtic will have been pleased with their overall performance and getting back to winning ways. Player of the Match for the Hoops was Kirsty Howat who was prominent throughout and capped a fine performance with her two quality goals.
Celtic: M Cunningham, Connor (Middleton), Whyte, McCulloch, Napier, Clark (Fitzsimmons), Howat Littlejohn, Ross (Richards, Ewens, Mulvey (H Cunningham). Subs not used Gibson, Rafferty.
Report & Pictures: Celtic FC