by Graham Semple.
Glasgow City moved 10 points clear at the top of the SWPL after a hard-fought 3-1 win over Rangers at Lochinch in Pollok Country Park.
Denise O’Sullivan gave City an early lead with a sweet volley but Kirsty Howat equalised for Rangers six minutes into the second half. With time running out, Julie Nelson netted a fine header and Leanne Crichton stroked home a penalty as the reigning champions remained on course to defend their crown.
City started the match brightly and took the lead after seven minutes. A good cross from Fiona Brown was only half-cleared by the Rangers defence to O’Sullivan at the edge of the box, and she chested the ball down and volleyed past the helpless Khym Ramsay in one smooth and fluid movement.
Moments later, it was almost 2-0. Brown, so often the architect, continued to torment the Rangers back line and her cross was met by Susan Fairlie who out-jumped the goalkeeper and saw her header drift wide.
Rangers gradually began to assert themselves and exert pressure on the Glasgow goal, and Natalie Ross provoked goalkeeper, Niki Deitier, into action, however City’s recent recruit gathered comfortably.
With 29 minutes played, Brown tried her luck from distance after cutting inside, but her right-footed curling effort was well saved by the Rangers number one. O’Sullivan then had a fantastic opportunity to grab her second and double City’s lead but she mistimed her header and the ball narrowly missed the target.
In the remaining minutes of the first half there was little goalmouth action and City went into the break with a slender 1-0 advantage.
In the early stages of the second period Rangers pushed, pressed and harried further up the pitch as they searched for the leveller, and they got they goal they were looking for after 51 minutes. Howat’s well-struck shot from 20 yards found the net and suddenly the match was all square.
Rangers almost snatched the lead with 23 minutes remaining. A 30 yard free-kick from Hayley Cunningham forced Deiter to tip the ball over, and from the resulting corner, Erin Cuthbert fired over as the visitors turned the screw.
There was a lengthy delay in play after 70 minutes when Rangers player, Stephanie Knox, fell to the ground. No other player was involved when she went down with a leg injury.
This stoppage in play allowed both teams the opportunity to receive instructions from the sidelines, and when play resumed, the pattern of the match changed. It was now City who pushed further up the pitch and had the majority of possession as they searched for a winner.
Brown was a lick of paint away from putting City back in front after 74 minutes but her rasping drive struck the crossbar and was cleared to safety. Crichton then had an effort flash wide before the third goal of the match arrived. Nelson rose highest to meet a Fairlie corner and her powerful header found the bottom corner – despite the best efforts of the Rangers goalkeeper.
City made sure of the three points in injury-time when Brown was brought down in the box. Crichton stepped up and dispatched the ball into the net with consummate ease. Fairlie nearly added a fourth goal, but her attempt hit the side-netting and the match drew to a close.
This was a pulsating match between the two best teams in the league, and there was an abundance of quality on show from both sides. City, who are still missing a number of top team stars through injury, had the better chances and merited the win, however Rangers can take heart from a spirited performance.
Glasgow City: Deiter, Black, Brown, Crichton, Docherty, Fairlie, Grant, Love, McCulloch, Nelson, O'Sullivan
Subs: Alexander, Boyce, Lappin, McMurchie, McSorley, Whyte
Rangers: Ramsay, Cuthbert, Cunningham, Hill, Howat, Knox, Mulvey, Riley, Ross, Sneddon, Swanson
Subs: Clelland, Foley, Hughes, Karagiozis, Lindsay, Watson