Relentless Celtic keep Champions League bid on track with another SWPL win

By Euan Davidson

May 26, 2021

Celtic knew only a win would keep their momentum going. On a fantastic run, a tricky trip to Hibs awaited Fran Alonso’s side tonight, and a delayed kick-off only ramped up the drama.

Now, believe you, me: whether you’re Celtic, Hibernian or anyone, getting a stream to work can be difficult. Unfortunately, much of the first ten minutes, from a viewer’s perspective, were marred by technical issues. From a Celtic supporter’s perspective though, it’ll only have added to the nerves.

It was a slick Hibs side that ran the show for most of the first half. Quick inter-play and width kept the Celtic defence busy, although that’s not to say it wasn’t an open game. A quick shot from Mariah Lee came close to testing the Hibs keeper after 5 minutes, but it missed the mark.

Not long after, Hibernian threatened from a corner, but the resulting header blazed over the bar. It was a warning, though, and this high-intensity, open-ended affair was just shooting into life. Throughout the first-half, clear-cut chances were a scarcity but the passing and movement from both sides was excellent.

There were opportunities, granted, but they were speculative. Nicolson, Lee and Hayes all tried, but couldn’t hit the target with their shots.

And then it happened.

A brilliantly-worked corner routine saw the ball played short before a looping cross that found Caitlin Hayes square on the forehead. A perfect boost before half-time, and Celtic were in the ascendency.

Hibs: recent Champions League competitors / (Photo by Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A nervy second half awaited Celtic

Celtic continued to pile on the pressure early in the second 45. Some excellent build-up play couldn’t yield opportunities against a stubborn Hibs defence, however. A mazy Mariah Lee run almost led to an opportunity for goal machine Sarah Ewens, but her shot was denied.

Danger was coming from set pieces. Around the 54th minute, another whipped delivery nearly found its mark, but the Hibs goalkeeper Emily Mutch rose smartly to deal with the danger.

Fran Alonso made his customary changes at the hour mark. Nicolson and Atkinson replaced Clark and Robertson, as the tempo of the match continued apace. Mariah Lee was continuing to cause trouble on the left wing, but chances were, again, at a premium.

Hibs very nearly found an equaliser on the 65th minute mark. A goal-line clearance was required after a Hibees corner yielded a close-range shot. The warning signs were there.

Yet, despite looking as if they might find an equaliser, Hibs profligacy and some instinctive defending from Celtic denied them time and again. From a Ghirls’ perspective, Hayes and Lee enjoyed half-chances, but Alonso’s side could probably count themselves lucky to have struck before half-time.

Hibs attacked relentlessly late on, peppering the Celtic box with shots, before winning a dangerous free kick inches outside of the box. It was no bother for Rachael Johnstone in goal, though, with a low, tame effort comfortably in the keeper’s grasp.

And so, 0-1 it ended. Another vital three points, another confidence boost and yet another positive result for Celtic.

What it means

With Glasgow City winning against Hearts, it’s very much as you were in the SWPL [Flashscore].

Two fixtures remain [Celtic FC Women]; Forfar Farmington and Motherwell. In the last meetings between Celtic and both sides, the Ghirls beat Forfar 8-0 and Motherwell 3-0. However, with unprecedented pressure and expectation on Alonso, it’s important not to get carried away just yet.

Still, if the league ended today, Celtic Women would be in the Champions League for the first time. That in itself is a massive achievement. There’s still plenty of football to be played though, and it’s important not to discount the title race either.

It’s a genuinely exciting time for the Women’s team. Let’s hope further investment and better opportunities to get to matches come in 21-22.

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