Celtic advanced to the final of the Scottish Cup with a 3-1 victory over city rivals Rangers at Kilwinning Sports Club. A Kathleen McGovern hat-trick settled a match which had been fairly evenly contested until half-time, with Rangers captain Hannah Cunningham’s goal putting the sides in 1-1 at the break.
The second half belonged to the hooped side of the Old Firm however, as they took control of the game and eventually reaped the benefits of their dominance through their captain’s three goals, with 3-1 a flattering result for Rangers.
McGovern showed her attacking intent from the off, firing the first shot of the game just wide of Ciara Pollock’s goal. Rangers responded well however, and some neat play down the right wing between Lucy Sinclair and Sarah Stewart had the Celtic defence scrambling.
Neither side was controlling possession with an array of misplaced passes not allowing the game to settle into a rhythm. Rangers midfield were posted missing when Celtic centre half Cara Henderson roamed forward from the halfway line, with no one making any attempt to close her down and the Rangers defence backing off, she found herself on the edge of the penalty box, eventually hitting a shot that deflected narrowly wide with the Rangers keeper scrambling to get across.
It was a sign of things to come as once again Celtic gallivanted unopposed through the Rangers midfield, this time with Jade Menzies executing a perfect turn away from her marker before playing in McGovern with a through ball into the box. Using all her strength she held off her marker before firing high and hard off the crossbar and into the back of the net.
Rangers responded well and would have had an equaliser but for a great save from Kendall Welsh, who diving low at the feet of Leah Mulrine, threw an arm in the air to block the chipped effort. A vital save to keep her team in front.
Celtic should have capitalised on their keeper’s great work when Emma Betty Craig burst through one-on-one with Pollock, however it was the turn of the Rangers goalie to show her quality, blocking well with her legs. The rebound almost fell to McGovern but it came at her too fast and bounced off the unsuspecting striker for a goal kick.
The end to end action continued as Rangers grabbed an equaliser. Left back Cunningham picked up the ball in her own half and seeing the space open up in front of her she drove forward. The consistently impressive Chloe Warrington tried to challenge her but Cunningham held her off to bear down on goal, Welsh and Cunningham both slid in on each other with the Rangers captain coming out on top of the Celtic goalie as the ball slid through and into the back of the net.
It was a deserved equaliser in an entertaining game with both sides giving it all, but conceding seemed to waken something in Celtic and they fashioned a couple more opportunities before the break. McGovern and Craig playing on the shoulder of the last defender were always quick to turn their marker and get in behind, but the second goal just wouldn’t quite come before half-time.