Hamilton Accies 1
(Whyte 29, own goal 65)
Celtic began their 2017 summer season league campaign with a narrow win over Hamilton Accies in what proved to be a much closer game than might have been anticipated. A 29th-minute header from Courtney Whyte and an own goal were sufficient to secure a 2-1 victory.
In the opening stages Accies played with great enthusiasm and energy covering all areas of the pitch and closing down Celtic at every opportunity. The Hoops, with their more studied approach were finding it difficult to retain possession and this resulted in a scrappy opening quarter to the match.
During this period, Celtic’s Ruesha Littlejohn was prominent with quick footwork and clever passes attempting to release her right-wing partner, Kirsty Howat on several occasions. Chances to strike at goal remained at a premium for both sides. Hamilton showed from time to time that their pacy attackers were more than able to take advantage of any hesitancy in the Celtic defence.
Megan Cunningham, the Hoops goalkeeper, was busier than her Hamilton counterpart during this spell, but was not really tested. After some time, Celtic began to show some superiority and were largely on the front foot, with Natalie Ross and heather Richards busy and committed in midfield.
Several darting runs from Sarah Crilly, operating wide on the left resulted in her cutting inside and hitting long-range shots which failed to hit the target. Striker Sarah Ewens also had a shot from the edge of the penalty area, but, again, Hopkins in Accies’ goal was untroubled.
Following several corners on their right, Celtic made the breakthrough after 31 minutes when a Richards corner was headed firmly into the net by Courtney Whyte from just inside the six-yard box.
The goal allowed Celtic to play with a little more composure, but still Hamilton persisted with their high-energy approach and counter-attacked with real pace when the opportunity arose. Indeed, just on the stroke of half-time a high, swinging corner from Accies’ left was met inside the area and brought out an outstanding leap by Cunningham to tip the ball over to safety.
In the second half, Celtic continued to probe and seek out openings but were simply unable to test the Accies’ goalkeeper. They did have the ball in the net after 50 minutes, but the referee was in good position and ruled it offside.
The next time the ball crossed the line was after 63 minutes when a ball driven into the penalty area by Richards was sliced into her own goal by an unlucky Accies defender.
The home side would be disappointed by this set-back, but were undaunted and continued to seek a goal of their own. They began to play long, searching balls in the Hoops half which were eagerly chased by their forwards. One such pass completely eluded the Celtic back line and was lobbed over the advancing Cunningham, taking what seemed an age to drop into the net.
Although there was no further scoring, Accies had two further near misses, and once more it was Cunningham to thank for keeping them at bay with an incredible instinctive save from a shot at point-blank range.
Celtic will be happy to have had a winning start to the league, but will hope to be more comfortable in future. For the Hoops, Cunningham did well in goal, Cara McBrearty, on the left of a back three, was confident in possession and careful and accurate in her passing. Littlejohn was tireless in her efforts but was never able to break free for shots on goal. Sarah Ewens, leading the attack, worked hard, was seldom played in by her colleagues and had to forage for herself most of the time.
Celtic: Cunningham, Hodges, McBrearty (Rafferty), Whyte, Clark (c), Ross, Richards (Fulton), Howat (Dalgliesh), Crilly, Ewens, Littlejohn. Sub not used: Fitzsimmons.
Reported by Celtic FC
Pic: Celtic FC