Report by Paul Elliott
A second half Clare Shine goal was the difference as Glasgow City earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Celtic in the Scottish Women’s Premier League.
Scott Booth’s side came into this one off the back of a tight 1-0 victory away to Stirling University, and a stunning high-scoring win over Inverness in the League Cup. Celtic had a busy pre-season with a healthy player recruitment drive, so this was always going to be a tough game for City, very early in the season. Ex-City players Kerry Montgomery, Megan Cunningham, Georgie Rafferty, Courtney Whyte, and Suzanne Mulvey will have come into this game with a point to prove as David Haley’s squad took to the field against the champions.
A sunny afternoon welcomed the kick off at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium as the visitors Celtic got the game underway. From the first whistle it was clear that it was going to be a physical game. The opening skirmishes were very even with no side really taking the initiative.
The game’s first real chance came through a Kirsty Howat free kick for Celtic. Howat had a crack at goal from a long way out but saw her effort zip about a yard over the crossbar. Gemma Fay between the sticks for City meanwhile looked very comfortable to let the effort fly towards the stand.
The game centred around a competitive midfield battle with big characters on both sides looking to stamp their authority on the game. Celtic were pressing the game well and curtailed a number of City build-ups, even forcing the play back to Fay in the City goal.
Amidst the bruising encounter came a moment of magic when Erin Cuthbert slid a beautiful pass through the Celtic defence for Shine. The Irish striker ran through one-on-one with Cunningham in the Celtic goal but couldn’t finish what was the best chance of the half. Her effort stung the palms of the ex-City keeper while the bottom corner was beckoning.
Moments later Celtic created an almost identical opportunity when Mulvey sauntered through the City defence for a one-on-one with Fay. Lauren McMurchie however read the game well and made up an exceptional amount of ground to pile on the pressure, prompting Mulvey to shoot over the bar.
With half time edging ever closer, a City set-piece came close to unlocking the stubborn Celtic defence. Leanne Ross curled in a wicked cross for Savannah McCarthy but Georgie Rafferty glanced the ball away from the head of the City defender at the vital moment. A very competitive first half ended in stalemate.
City emerged from the dressing room almost five minutes ahead of Celtic and kicked off the second half with real purpose. Within minutes of the restart, Ross sailed a delightful ball over the Celtic defence for Shine to nod it down for Ruesha Littlejohn, but Cunningham flew out quickly to gather the ball at the feet of the City midfielder.
City’s play was visibly more slick than in the first half with plenty of fluid movement, quality passing and off-the-ball running. The step up in quality didn’t take long to produce a goal for the champions.
Littlejohn collected the ball on the left wing and strode into the Celtic box. Resisting the temptation to strike at goal from an angle, or cross the ball too early, she showed fantastic composure to take her time and wait for the run of Shine - who popped up unmarked in the box to bury the ball in the bottom corner of the net. 1-0.
Shine almost scored a second through a piece of individual quality. The game was gifted a glimpse of the ability of Shine when she went gliding through Celtic’s defence with ease. Cunningham did well to narrow the angle and block the danger before the striker could pick her spot in the back of the net.
For a period of time the match became sticky, and as the game wore on Celtic began to look like they’d run out of steam as City asserted more and more control. The hosts began to push for a second goal bringing Carla Boyce on for McMurchie, demonstrating clear attacking intent.
The killer second goal nearly arrived through a McCarthy header from a Ross corner kick. The Irish defender rose head and shoulders above everyone but her downwards header was scooped up by Cunningham on her goal line.
Then Celtic fought back and in the dying embers of the game, City players had their hearts in their mouths as Celtic’s Mulvey rattled the post from edge of the box. It was a sublime curling effort that left Fay beaten all ends up.
City resorted to running down the clock at the corner flag every opportunity they could. Littlejohn was given her marching orders when she collected a second yellow card for kicking the ball away, having been booked in the first half for a foul on Montgomery. The red card prompted waves of late Celtic pressure and a handball claim that was waved away.
In the end City was resolute enough to hold on to win the game 1-0. It was a well-earned win over a much-improved physical Celtic side that many have tipped to be the ‘dark horse’ of this campaign.
Commenting on the game, City Head Coach Scott Booth said, "We're delighted to take all three points today. The girls worked really hard to ensure the victory. Today we needed to dig in for the result and when that happens the fluid football we want to play can at times be affected. We know we can be better, but it's three points and another clean sheet. We are happy with the momentum we are building."
Glasgow City: Fay; McMurchie; McCarthy; Lauder; Littlejohn; Shine; Docherty; McCulloch; Ross (Capt); Crilly; Cuthbert
Subs: Love; Kerr; Clelland; Brown; Hay; Boyce; Clachers
Celtic: Cunningham McGuire; Ross; Craig; Montgomery; Mulvey; Howat; Clark; Middleton; Rafferty; Knox;
Subs: McBreaty; Dalgleish; Paton; Whyte; Cavanagh; Gibson; Connolly