Photo via Colin Poultney.
It was a Halloween treat for Celtic as they edged rivals Rangers to progress to the semi-final of the SWPL Cup. Both sides were evenly matched throughout and it was a game that should have seen more goals but it was a Charlie Wellings strike just before the hour that broke the deadlock. Rangers fought hard but missed crucial chances to score and ultimately came up short.
Celtic had the first chance in the sixth minute as Rangers failed to clear the ball from a throw-in and allowed Celtic to pounce. The ball came into the middle for Jacynta to drive towards goal but her shot was deflected out for a corner.
It would then be Rangers turn to test Celtic as they showed good build-up play, allowing Rachel McLauchlan to receive the ball in space on the edge of the box and fire a shot at goal but it was blazed high and wide.
The momentum then moved in Celtic’s favour again as just past the tenth minute, Jodie Bartle played an excellent through ball which split the Rangers defence and allowed Wellings to latch on to it and bare down on goal. Rangers ‘keeper, Jenna Fife rushed out to close down the angle but she was rounded by Wellings and took out Chantelle Swaby in the process. The ball would have been rolled into an empty net if it were not for Brianna Westrup getting back to clear the ball off the line and keep it goalless.
With 20 minutes played Rangers won back possession through a poor Celtic pass. Kayla McCoy then drove at goal through the middle towards the edge of the box and fired a low hard shot at goal but it was comfortably collected by Celtic ‘keeper Chloe Logan.
Eight minutes later, Rangers rued an even better chance as they were able to absorb Celtic’s high press and break on the counter-attack down the right-hand side. The ball was passed through to Lizzie Arnot who was unmarked in the box, but she couldn’t sort her feet out and miss-hit her shot. She was able to get a pass away though to Demi Vance but her shot was deflected wide for a corner.
A few minutes later, Rangers looked to keep the pressure on. As the corner came in, Westrup was unmarked at the back post and got a free header at goal but it was straight into the hands of Logan. Vance was next to try her chances from a Rangers corner, getting her shot away but it was again hit straight at the keeper.
Celtic looked to put the pressure back on in the closing minutes of the half as the ball was launched deep into Rangers territory and was half-cleared by Westrup. Shen Mengyu collected the ball on the edge of the box and fired a low shot towards the bottom left corner, but Westrup was there to block the shot and clear her lines.
The final chance of the half fell to Rangers as Jane Ross picked up the ball on the wing and drove towards the Celtic goal. She then fired a low drive at the far post but Logan was there to get down and collect without trouble.
Celtic almost took the lead in the first minute of the second half when Wellings broke down the wing and crossed in for Mengyu who hit the ball first time from a close angle. Unfortunately for her, it flew just wide of the post.
On the 50th minute mark, Rangers won a free-kick 30-yards out from goal. The ball was floated towards the back post and was initially cleared but as Celtic tried to break on the counter, Rangers won it back out on the wing and the ball was floated back in from the left. It was taken down coolly by Westrup and she played a calm pass across to substitute Zoe Ness who was coming in unmarked. Against all the odds, it connected with her foot but trickled just wide of the post. Ness fell to the floor with her head in her hands. This was a huge chance for Rangers to go in front as it was essentially an open goal.
Rangers would soon be kicking themselves for their missed chances as just on the hour mark, Celtic broke on the counter-attack again. This time the ball found its way to Wellings who was unmarked 25-yards from goal. With no one closing her down, she fired a low powerful shot at goal. Fife dived to meet it but it dipped at the last second, slipped under her grip and landed in the back of the net to an eruption of cheers. The deadlock was finally broken and it was deserved by Celtic who had been the better team building up to it.
This forced Rangers to take things up a gear. Minutes later, a direct ball caught the Celtic defence out and allowed Ross to nip in behind. Baring down on goal with the keeper rushing out to try and meet her, she ended up going for a chip over the ‘keeper but unfortunately, Ross watched it bounce just outside the post and go out. Ross then tried again 10 minutes later with a shot from distance which initially looked comfortable for Logan. She fumbled the ball though, allowing it to bounce up from her gloves onto the bar and go out for a corner. Celtic were able to clear their lines and Logan’s mistake was unpunished.
Celtic almost doubled their lead with only 10 minutes left. A long Celtic through ball was being chased down again by Wellings and Fife was put under pressure to come out and clear the ball. Her clearance only found its way to Kathleen McGovern, who took a touch and tried to bend a shot into the Rangers net from 30-yards out but Fife was able to get back in time to collect the long-distance shot.
Entering the final minutes of the game, Rangers had Celtic pinned up against a wall but they were defending well. Then on the 90th-minute, a poor goal-kick from Logan allowed Rangers to win the ball back high up the park. With the whole team pushing forward into the box, the ball was crossed in and cleared initially. It came back out towards Brogan Hay who smashed the ball goalward from outside the box. The ball then ping-ponged off several Celtic defenders and dropped in front of Ness who was five yards out. Somehow as she hits the ball, it spun away off target and was eventually cleared by McGovern. Frustration was heard all around the ground as another big chance wasn’t taken.
It’s a similar story for Rangers and Celtic. Despite enjoying more possession and having more chances, Rangers couldn’t find an all-important goal. Despite being underdogs for this tie, the away side defended well and come away with another victory against their Old Firm rivals. Celtic now progress to the semi-final of the competition alongside Glasgow City, Hibernian, and Spartans.
Rangers: Fife, Docherty, Vance, Middag, Reilly, McCoy, McLauchlan, Ross, Arnot, Westrup, Swaby; Cunningham, Hay, Ness, Cornet, McLeary, Watson.
Celtic: Logan, Bartle, Shorts, Jacynta, Shen, Larisey, Chance, Donaldson, Clark, Hayes, Wellings; Craig, Toland, Gros, Warrington, Bowie, Johnstone, McGovern.