(Richards (28), Howat (69))
Despite Celtic controlling this match for long spells throughout the 90 minutes, the outcome remained very much in the balance well into the second-half.
A clever first-half strike from Heather Richards had given the Hoops a 1-0 lead at half-time, but it was the 69th minute before Kirsty Howat could add to that, allowing Celtic to close out the match at 2-0.
The pattern was established immediately, as Celtic took the game to their hosts, controlling the midfield and having much the greater share of possession. This early superiority, with Ross’s tenacity and Kerry Montgomery’s class in midfield for the Hoops, did not yield the goal their play merited.
Spartans never looked as if they were out of it and responded with several counter-attacks, keeping possession and advancing well in to Celtic’s half, winning a corner in their very first attack.
The first genuine opportunity for Celtic came when persistence from Kirsty Howat on the left set up a golden opportunity for Ruesha Littlejohn whose volley looked net-bound, but the young Spartans keeper, Eartha Cumings, made a wonderful save, earning applause from both sets of supporters.
This was followed by several other efforts from the Hoops, but despite their outfield superiority they never fully tested the Spartans goalkeeper.
It was Richards, as she had done last week, who relieved the building frustration by scoring after 28 minutes when she turned in a Ruesha Littlejohn cross with the outside of her right foot.
Spartans continued on the counter and only four minutes after Richards’ opener, Alana Marshall sent in a powerful shot from distance which brought out the best in Celtic keeper Megan Cunningham, who rose to touch the ball over.
Celtic’s half-time lead was well-merited, but there was a feeling that their lead could have been greater, given the possession they had had in the Spartans half.
The home side were always willing to attack when they could, but they found Kelly Clark at centre-back in commanding form as, time and again, she effortlessly broke up attacks.
At the other end, Littlejohn was enjoying much possession, but the Spartans defence coped well with her. Spartans keeper Cumings became busier as the half progressed, clutching crosses, fielding shots and on three separate occasions dashing out of her penalty area to clear.
As the game moved into the last quarter Celtic increased their lead. Following a corner on the left, a shot thudded off the crossbar. In the next attack Littlejohn blocked a clearance and a clever lob from Ross had ‘goal’ written all over it, but somehow Cumings leapt to get her fingertips to it. Kirsty Howat was alert and prodded the loose ball into goal to complete the day’s scoring.
There were solid performances from Richards, Ross and Montgomery as always, and Georgie Rafferty strolled through the match.
In a match where misplaced passes often spoiled the flow, skipper Clark was an example to all with her clever, accurate passing bringing the Celtic midfielders into play time after time. For that reason and for her unflustered defending, she wins Player of the Match.
CELTIC: Cunningham, Clark, Middleton, Dalgliesh (McBrearty 65), Rafferty, Ross, Montgomery (Paton 75), Howat, Richards, Grant, Littlejohn (Mulvey 70).
Sub not used: Gibson.
Reported by Celtic FC
Pictures: Celtic FC