Celtic 1 Glasgow City 1
At K-Park Training Academy
In a match where Celtic’s performance and the result will reverberate around Scottish Women’s football, Glasgow City scored a second-half equaliser in an intriguing 1-1 draw. Celtic’s Natalie Ross showed great anticipation and wonderful skill to volley Celtic into an early lead, but the Hoops had to settle for a share of the points when City equalised after 70 minutes.
In Celtic’s most positive and aggressive opening to a match in some time, it was one-way traffic in the opening minutes, as they poured forward with attack after attack, completely knocking the normally composed City off their stride.
As early as the fifth minute Celtic’s Sarah Ewens fired in a fierce free kick which was parried by City keeper Alexander for a corner. Celtic were relentless in the early stages, with Natalie Ross on top of her game, bringing everyone into play and always trying to take the game to City.
Heather Richards, too was enjoying her best form for a long while with her physical presence, commitment and frequent block tackles a feature of her play.
In defence, Celtic looked very assured with Kelly Clark, featuring on the left of a back three, leading by a captain’s example, and covering much ground in her defensive duties. Perhaps Celtic has finally found her very best position.
Kerry Montgomery and particularly Heather Richards were bringing physicality to Celtic’s play. New American signings Jaclyn Poucel and Darcy McFarlane were impressing on their debuts with McFarlane’s tigerish tackling a feature of her game. But, still, it was Natalie Ross who continued to orchestrate Celtic’s vibrant performance.
After 17 minutes, after clever footwork, Ewens played the ball into the penalty area. The ball eluded the last City defender and Ross, anticipating this, sent a volley into the net from close range.
It wasn’t one-way traffic, though and, as the game settled down, City found their way forward on many occasions winning several corners. Any direct shots on goal, however, were confidently dealt with by Celtic’s keeper Megan Cunningham.
Celtic had opportunities to increase their lead. A Richards corner was headed wide by Poucel, Ewens had a strike blocked on the edge of the penalty area and Ruesha Littlejohn volleyed just past. The Hoops retained their lead until the break and left the pitch looking satisfied with their efforts.
Any thoughts of City being rattled by Celtic’s fine start were dispelled from the start of the second period when the away team moved the ball forward with menace. Courtney Whyte at the centre of Celtic’s defence was prominent for her anticipation and solid performance in the air as the Hoops’ defence was put under pressure.
Celtic, for their part, looked to have breached the City defence when Ewens burst down the right and squared the ball across goal, but no one could capitalise.
Goalkeeper Cunningham was called into action several times and one save in particular from a fierce drive by Jordan brought appreciation from the large crowd. Both sides had further chances to score before City equalised in 70 minutes following a corner on their right. The high, swinging delivery landed amongst a group of players inside the Hoops’ six-yard box and the ball ended in the net, apparently deflecting from Montgomery.
Now the game was on a knife-edge with neither team appearing to settle for a draw, and as the game moved into the final minutes, City won a series of corners as they pressed for the winner, but the Celtic goal remained intact, with Cunningham again busy, but very much up to the task.
This was a hugely encouraging performance by Celtic with many of their players performing to their full potential. New recruit Darcy McFarlane had an exceptional debut in a holding midfield position: dynamic, pacy and accurate in her distribution. She even found the space on two occasions get forward to strike at goal. Kerry Montgomery added mobility and strength to the midfield, Ruesha Littlejohn was clever on the ball, giving City no peace.
My player of the match, though, was Natalie Ross who had probably her best-ever game in the Hoops, especially in the first half with her relentless, intelligent play bringing out the best in her colleagues.
Celtic: Cunningham, Poucel, Whyte, Clark (c), Montgomery, McFarlane, Ross, Crilly (Howat), Richards, Littlejohn, Ewens. Subs: Rafferty, McBrearty, Fitzsimmons, Hodges, Dalgliesh.
Reported by Celtic FC
Picture: Celtic FC