Hibs Ladies took the SWPL Cup trophy back to Edinburgh for the second season in a row after a dominant performance against Celtic. The reigning champions flew out the blocks as Kirsty Smith fired in the opener after five minutes but moments later Celtic equalised as Ruesha Littlejohn capatalised on a mistake at the back. From that point on, Hibs would be clinical with their chances and all goals came from inside the Celtic penalty area. Lucy Graham gave them the lead with 10 minutes to go until half-time and with two minutes gone in the second half, Rachel McLauchlan found the net with an easy finish. The Hibees rounded off their triumph as captain Rachel Small fired home after a slightly lucky break.
The game started at a frantic pac with Hibs taking the lead after just five minutes. Smith got the ball out on the left side and looked like she would cross it into the box. Instead, she cut inside and rocketed an attempt towards goal and found the net. It was a great goal to give the Edinburgh side the lead.
It was ecstasy for Hibs but it was extremely short lived. Almost immediately up the other end, it was a mistake at the back that left Littlejohn with the ball and plenty of space inside the box. Fife closed down the angle but it was a smart finish from the Celtic player to equalise for her side.
At all square, the game settled back down and neither side seemed to gain an advantage or disadvantage from the earlier events. It was Hibs, who came closest to grabbing the lead again though. A well-worked free-kick found Katie Turner on the edge of the box but her attempt towards goal could only find the side netting.
It was Turner again who came close to restoring her side’s lead. She was played in behind the Celtic defence and hit the target with her low shot across goal. Unfortunately for her, Cunnigham was alert and got down well to save the ball and turn it wide for a corner.
The game settled down once more and neither side managed to create any real chances. Littlejohn had a tame volley saved by Fife but it was of no real danger. However, at the other end, Hibs would find themselves back in front a minute later. The ball was inside the Celtic box and despite multiple attempts to put it goalwards, it seemed the Glasgow outfit would eventually clear. However, that wasn’t the case and it eventually fell to Graham who calmly slotted home.
Celtic kept their heads up and almost repeated their remarkably quick equaliser again. The ball wasn’t cleared well by Hibs and with Fife off her line, the shot was on target and heading in. Thankfully for Hibs, they had a body in front of the line who cleared away the danger.
It was Hibs who took the lead into half-time and as you’d expect, Celtic came out flying to try and find an early eqauliser. It was to be Hibs though that spoilt their plan and scored early again at the start of the half. Celtic failed to clear the danger and it was a relatively straightforward cross and then finish from McLauchlan at the back post. It was clinical from the reigning champs but to be expected from the highest scoring team in SWPL 1.
Knowing the importance of a goal, Celtic were pushing bodies forward. They continued to look dangerous, in particular from set-pieces, hitting the post directly from a corner on one occasion. They couldn’t find a goal though and with 15 minutes to go, Hibs sealed the victory. A lovely bit of skill by Lia Tweedie got herself room in the box and her cut back eventually fell to Small who fired into the net despite the best efforts of the Celtic defence.
Celtic continued to push forward and look for a potentially miraculous recovery but Hibs showed their class at the back to hold Celtic at bay. If anything, with Celtic pushing, Hibs could have added further to their tally. In the end, they will be delighted with the result and to add to their success from last season.
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