Celtic Women got off to a flying start in their league campaign this evening with a dominant 4-2 victory away to Aberdeen.
The Hoops controlled the game from start to finish, never looking in any real danger.
The pace was set straight from the kick off with the Celts pressing high and ensuring the Dons were stuck in their own half.
Aberdeen goalkeeper, Gail Gilmour, was forced into a number of early saves – the best of which denied Tegan Bowie as she went in on goal.
The Red’s stopper could do nothing to prevent Celtic’s opener, however, as a similar move on the opposite wing saw Charlie Wellings bare down on goal with options in the middle. Wellings smashed the ball through the hands of Gilmour to give Celtic the lead.
The Ghirls enjoyed that tactic a number of times in the first half with a reverse ball coming from deep and the respective wingers and wing backs making early runs in behind. We’ve seen similar moves in the men’s team recently in goals against Dundee and AZ Alkmaar.
Celtic were on top and it appeared just a matter of time before they doubled their lead. Wellings provided a constant threat with her quick feet and movement in behind.
However, it was Aberdeen who soon found the net, completely against the run of play.
A dynamic run down the left by Jenna Penman followed by an awkward ball in saw Celtic captain Kelly Clark turn the ball into her own net and from nowhere, Aberdeen were level.
The Celts did not have to wait long for the lead again, as the the Ghirls showed the same intent they had done since the first whistle. A deep, looping cross from Izzy Atkinson forced an instinctive finish from Chloe Craig at the back post and from there Celtic were completely in the driving seat.
The Hoops came back for the second half showing the same desire. They constantly pressed Aberdeen and dominated possession, limiting the Dons to no clear cut chances. However, Celtic struggled to double their advantage with the Reds taking a cautious approach.
Kathleen McGovern had claims for a penalty turned down as she took a tough tackle from behind inside the box. However, the referee seemed certain that a corner was the right decision.
Finally, having dictated the entire half, Celtic grabbed their third with Charlie Wellings making it a double for her. She shuffled her feet to find some space just outside the 6-yard box before rifling the ball into Gilmour’s right top corner.
From there, the game seemed likely to fizzle out with Celtic strolling to victory. However, to Aberdeen’s credit, they found an extra gear and chased a comeback. Remarkably, the Dons got a goal back as Eilidh Shore, who impressed for Aberdeen in midfield, met a cross from the left hand side before looping a Barry Robson-like header over Celtic ‘keeper, Rachael Johnstone.
The Reds went all in on an equaliser showing decent intent, however the Celtic defence looked relatively comfortable. Celtic engaged in a number of promising counter attacks as Aberdeen committed more and more bodies forward.
The Hoops ultimately took full advantage as Canadian teenager Larisey Clarissa went in on goal before being taken down in the area by Gilmour. The spot kick was coolly despatched by Chloe Craig for her second of the day with the Hoops running out 4-2 winners.
Fran Alonso will be thrilled by the dominance of Celtic’s display. The Hoops were clearly the better side and on another day could have scored double the goals that they did. The Spanish coach will be slightly disappointed in the slackness shown in the two goals conceded – particularly in a game in which Rachael Johnstone had very little to do.
Next Sunday, the Ghirls will face Scottish champions Glasgow City who have dominated the Scottish women’s game since the beginning of the century. Celtic pushed their city rivals right until the end for the title last season but had to settle for a Champions League spot – a huge achievement in its own right.
The Celts will be desperate to put a marker down and show City that they’re not here for second place. Based on today’s performance in which the Ghirls showed incredible pace, energy, skill and determination, there is no reason why they will not be challenging for the title this season.