Celtic handle Spartans with ease as SWPL title-race heads to wire

By Euan Davidson

May 19, 2021

There was a lot of pressure on Celtic tonight.

Fran Alonso’s side, admittedly, have taken care of Spartans before [SWPL]. In a 5-1 battering away from home, goals from Sarah Ewens, Sarah Teegarden, Anna Filbey and two from Chloe Craig made the difference. But these are different circumstances; after a series of fantastic wins, the title race is by no means out of bounds.

At the very least, Champions League football is on the agenda. It’d represent a significant boost in fortunes for Celtic’s Women’s side after voting to turn professional in 2019. But to do that, games like this one, against fifth-placed Spartans, matter a lot.

Not that you’d know from how Celtic played. From the first, Alonso’s side were all over the Edinburgh team. An early chance for prolific scorer Sarah Ewens was nestled into the gloves of the Spartans goalkeeper, but there was promising play from wide positions. Jacynta Galabadaarachchi and full-back Chloe Warrington were making things happen from the flanks, before some pressure nearly told for Galabadaarachchi on the 13 minute mark.

Then: a breakthrough. Who else but Sarah Ewens? The Scottish striker had time and space inside the box after a long ball from Anna Filbey, and she made no mistake.

It wasn’t long before Celtic put the pressure on again, albeit down to 10. Unfortunately, Kelly Clark was brought off after 27 minutes, with Caitlin Hayes replacing her. Being back on an equal footing immediately told.

Battlers: Summer Green battles for the ball against Rangers in November / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Celtic pile on the misery

A second, and a first. Celtic went 2-0 up, and it was down to the Australian Galabadaarachchi, who scored her first goal for the Ghirls. A driving by-line run by American Mariah Lee picked out Jacynta, and the former Napoli creator blasted the ball home double Celtic’s advantage.

Spartans were barely holding on, and it was little surprise when defender Jodie Bartle nodded home a third. From a whipped Anna Filbey corner, Bartle made the lead a surely unassailable one before half time.

Not that you’d have noticed half-time happened at all. Starting with the same intensity, Celtic were once again all over hapless Spartans, and barely 5 minutes into the second half, it was Mariah Lee who made it 4. Lee, who made the difference against Rangers, is building up quite the CV at Celtic, and having already created a goal, she took one herself. With aplomb.

Doing all the hard work herself, Lee was taking players on before driving a low shot through a crowded box. Needless to say, it worked, and the win looked all but secured from then.

That meant Fran Alonso had the luxury to make changes, and that he did. Atkinson and Pollard came on for goal-scorer Sarah Ewens and Chloe Warrington.

Late second half

The presence of Pollard immediately showed, with the striker forcing a save from Spartans’ Yates. Celtic seemed to slow down, with more changes: Robertson and the outstanding Filbey coming off, in place of Nicolson and McAllister.

On the 67th minute, substitute Nicolson was knocking at the door. However, her effort was straight at Yates, as the goal of topping the 5 Rangers scored against Spartans at the weekend was becoming more distant.

The pressure remained on, but that fifth just wouldn’t come. Spartans hit the bar, with an effort from Clelland, while Katie Frew’s shot went straight into Rachael Johnston’s arms.

So, 4-0 it stayed. It’s another huge win for Fran Alonso’s side, but with victories assured for Rangers and Glasgow City, the intensity of this title race just will not subside.

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