Report by Paul Elliott
An injury time goal saw Glasgow City lose the SWPL cup final to Hibs on a grey and wet Wednesday night at Ainsley Park. It was a final that lived up to its billing as the top two teams in Scottish women’s football went head-to-head in a battle to lift the first piece of silverware of the season.
City kicked the game off and the tone was set for what would be an enthralling cup final with both sides using the flanks to good effect early doors. Sarah Ewens was leading the charge well for Hibs while Savannah McCarthy was solid at the back for City. Fiona Brown and Rachel McLaughlin were engaged in a fascinating battle on City’s left wing – the opening stages promised a classic.
The game’s first real chance was created by Hibs through a swift break down the right. The resulting cross for Ewens zipped into the six-yard box but the striker couldn’t connect properly under pressure. Hibs were having particular success out wide with Kirsty Smith getting to the touchline often.
Hibs came close again when a long range shot by Lisa Robertson was tipped over the bar by Gemma Fay. It was a powerful effort but the Scotland international was never going to be beaten by a shot straight at her from distance.
As the first half tore on City began to edge back into the game. Hayley Lauder fashioned a chance from inside the box but shot straight at the keeper. Then the dynamic Erin Cuthbert burst into life, latching onto a loose ball midway through the Hibs half, and showed great feet before pinging her shot just wide of the post.
Then City made their pressure count. Leanne Ross swung in an inch-perfect corner kick onto the head of McCarthy who knocked the ball down for Julie Fleeting, and the prolific fired a clinical finish into the net from eight yards out. 1-0
Buoyed by the goal City went pressing for second. Brown tore down the right and powered a good cross into the six-yard box, but found no takers.
Then in the twist of fate McCarthy conceded a penalty to give Hibs the opportunity to bite back before half time. Lizzie Arnott took the spot kick, which was well saved by Fay. Arnott scuffed the rebound before Lucy Graham followed in to blast the ball into the back of the net. 1-1
City emerged for the second half on the hunt for goals. The champions were using the flanks but found Hibs’ right back McLaughlin handling Brown very well on the left. The first real chance of the second half was fashioned on the opposite wing by City’s captain. Ross showed great skill to step inside from the right wing and swing a left foot shot just wide of the top corner.
Ross was involved again shortly after as City piled on the pressure. The captain sent in a delicate cross which looked set for the head of Fleeting, but Joelle Murray managed to nod the ball clear just before if reached the head of Fleeting. It was great defending by the Hibs captain under real pressure.
Then out of nowhere came a moment of brilliance from Hibs. The impressive Graham spotted Fay off her line and pinged a 40-yard lob which landed on the roof of the net. It was great vision from the lively midfielder, and a warning for City.
As Hibs fought back into the game they nearly benefitted from a Ross backwards header that had to be plucked out of the air by Fay just under her crossbar. City were next to threaten as the game raged from end-to-end. A set piece routine saw great play by Cuthbert to set up Lauder, who saw her effort blocked amid a mass of Hibs jerseys. The ball broke to Brown who blasted an effort from range only to have it cleared off the line.
Hibs had their goalkeeper Jenna Fife to thank to prevent City from taking the lead. A Ross corner kick led to the ball dropping to the left foot of McCarthy, who improvised a dig that looked destined for the roof of the net but for an amazing save by Fife to acrobatically tip the ball over the bar.
Hibs then hit City on the break but the energetic Ewens saw her effort saved low by Fay in the City goal. McLaughlin was next to have a pop through a long range shot from corner routine, but her effort sailed wide of the City post.
Then came another moment of magic after Ewens was brought down 20 yards from goal. Emma Brownlie stepped up to strike the resulting free kick, which crashed off the crossbar with Fay beaten all ends up. Brownlie showed great technique to curl her right foot effort around the City wall at the opposite end than was expected. The Hibs follow up effort was well saved by Fay.
Great finals often have dramatic endings and this was one of them. Hibs broke from a City corner kick and sheer determination by Arnott saw her keep the ball in play on the left touchline, and then fire a cross into the City box. The cross took an ugly knick off McCarthy and bounced into the roof of the net via the foot of Fay. The Hibs side of the crowd erupted for the injury time winner.
It was a painful way for City to lose the match but perfectly encapsulated the fantastic drama of the cup final. Hibs lifted the trophy to draw a close to what was a great advert for Scottish women’s football.