Mulvey 65, 70, Clark 51
Celtic completed a clean-sweep of Premier League victories against Glasgow rivals Rangers with a 3-1 victory at K-Park with a goal from Kelly Clark and two from top-scorer Suzanne Mulvey.
The Hoops made several personnel and positional changes from their last outing, with Kiera Gibson starting in goal, Cara McBrearty making her first start of the season after a long spell of injury and 16-year-old Kaela McDonald-Nguah was on the bench for her first involvement with the team.
There was a long opening spell of scrappy play, characterised by fierce tackling and stray passes punctuated with a series of free kicks. This resulted in an inability of either side to retain the ball for any length of time.
During the opening half-hour, direct attempts on goal were scarce, the most notable being a curling shot from Abby Grant from the left which drifted wide, and a shot from Kirsty Howat which was well off target.
At the other end, after 29 minutes, a fierce free kick from Brown was on target, but keeper Gibson was able to parry it clear.
It was at this stage that Celtic began to take control of possession with Heather Richards prominent both for her combative play and astute passing, which began to bring some pattern to the Hoops’ build-up play. It remained the case, though, that Hamilton in the Rangers goal was not tested.
Celtic striker Mulvey had one or two half-chances, but in the main was well policed by the opposition centre-backs. Rangers, for their part, had two wayward shots from distance.
As the first half moved into injury time, Rangers struck. An awkward ball into the Hoops’ penalty area was not dealt with quickly, and this allowed Katy Turner to win possession and place the ball beyond Gibson to give the away team the edge at half-time.
Rangers were clearly buoyed by their narrow lead and started the second period very brightly, with Turner and Swanson both having opportunities to extend their lead, but both failed to hit the target.
From then, however, Celtic began to take more and more control of the match. Kerry Montgomery, a robust competitor in the Celtic midfield throughout, began to make her presence felt, driving her team forward at every opportunity.
As Celtic began to take a grip on the proceedings, it was Clark, as so often this season, who made the breakthrough for them. A free kick from the right after 60 minutes was delivered expertly by Richards and Clark rose above everyone to head firmly into the net.
This was no more than Celtic deserved, and they immediately sought to take advantage of their clear superiority at this stage. Only five minutes after Clark’s equaliser, Celtic took the lead through Mulvey, who prodded home from close-in following a corner.
Now with their tails up, Celtic were in the driving seat and Mulvey added a third in 70 minutes when a chest-high Grant cross was bundled into the net by the ever-alert striker.
Celtic were able to see out the remainder of the game fairly comfortably after that, and were happy to retain their 3-1 advantage.
McDonald-Nguah was introduced with only minutes to go, giving her a first taste of Premier League football.
After an unconvincing opening, Celtic were gradually able to gain control of this somewhat feisty match. Playing in an unaccustomed back three, Clark was a stand-out in defence throughout, Richards and Montgomery, were the most influential of the players, and Mulvey took the only clear-cut chances which fell to her with a striker’s instinct.
Kerry Montgomery was awarded sponsors exselgroup’s Player of the Match, although Heather Richards must have run her close.
Celtic: Gibson, Dalgliesh (Littlejohn) Clark(c), Rafferty, Middleton (Whyte), Grant, Richards, Montgomery, Howat (McDonald-Nguah) McBrearty, Mulvey. Sub not Used: Cunningham.
Reported by Celtic FC Picture: Celtic FC