In a game of penalties, Rangers came out on top to advance to the Sky Sports Cup Final. Despite it being a cold night in Airdrie, there was a great turn out from both sets of fans at the Excelsior to witness two fierce rivals going toe-to-toe in which was a very entertaining game by the end of it.
It was a slow and sluggish opening 45 minutes, especially from Celtic. The away side had most of the play and the chances in the opening half, with Rachel Rowe probably having the Gers best chance as she found herself unmarked in the box before firing just wide of the far post. The Welsh international also had a great effort from outside the box, which clipped the bar as it went just over. Although Celtic weren’t at their best in the first half, they still had two massive chances. The first was Caitlin Hayes header which was cleared off the line and a massive chance fell to Célya Barclais, when she found herself in space in the six-yard box but could only fire Amy Gallacher’s deflected cross wide, as it was the case of the wrong player at the wrong time.
In the second period, Celtic brought more quality to the game and were really competing with Rangers, and 10 minutes into the second half they won a penalty. Paula Partido’s shot was blocked by the hands of Kacy Hill and up-stepped Chloe Craig. Craig sent Victoria Esson the wrong way to give Celtic the lead. 20 minutes into the second half Rangers had an equaliser. After a goalmouth scramble, the ball was finally forced in by Hill who made amends for her penalty mishap to bring the away side level. With 10 minutes left a Rangers throw-in on the right side led to a very dangerous opportunity, substitute, Kirsty Maclean was picked out brilliantly by Rio Hardy and it was similar to Rowe’s first half chance except this time it had the right outcome for Rangers as she swept the ball into the far corner to give the away side the lead for the first time in the match. Needing an equaliser Celtic were playing a lot better and in the final minutes of regular time they got their merits, the ball fell kindly for Jenny Smith before she was wiped out by Tessel Middag and the referee was forced to give Celtic their second penalty. Craig was even cooler than the first time as she blasted it into the corner, grabbing the ball from the net in hope for a winner. As it looked like the extra-time was on the horizon, there was another twist when Hayes brought down Hardy in the box, and the referee pointed to the spot for the third time. There was no mistake from Hardy in injury-time, sending Rangers to the final.
Elena Sadiku gave her disappointed analysis of not only her first derby, but her first game as Celtic manager: “Obviously we had a game-plan, and I felt like first half we didn’t execute the game-plan, like we talked about, but obviously after some instructions and some feedback at half-time I think we come out as a stronger team.
“We have many parts of the game that we can learn from and grow as a team, and I think that’s important to take with in the future.”
The Ghirls’ go back to league action next week, with a tough trip to Glasgow City next Sunday. Sadiku will hope to make amends after a difficult start to her Celtic career.