A valiant display from the women of steel almost ensured an historic result in East Kilbride, but title-chasers Celtic narrowly edged to victory at a frost-covered K-Park on Wednesday evening.
Desperate to atone for their comprehensive 6-0 defeat to the Glasgow-side in October, Motherwell tactically nullified Celtic across both halves, with countless goalscoring opportunities evading the visiting goal. However, the breakthrough failed to materialise, as Celtic capitalised upon Motherwell’s attacking complacency, netting twice against the run of play, with Caitlin Hayes and Amy Gallacher both adding their name to the scoresheet.
Head Coach Paul Brownlie made three changes to the side who suffered defeat to Hibs in the capital last weekend, with Jo Addie returning to partner Chelsie Watson in the Heart of the Motherwell backline and Sarah Gibb featuring alongside Amy Anderson and Katie Rice in the midfield.
Goalkeeper Rebecca Cameron made her competitive Motherwell debut after last featuring for the women of steel ironically against Celtic in a pre-season friendly in the summer.
The shot stopper was immediately called into action, as Gallacher escaped the offside trap before drilling a close-range effort across the six-yard box, but Cameron reacted sharply to produce an exceptional late block.
Moments later, Motherwell almost found the breakthrough. Katie Rice’s whipped free-kick midway through the Celtic half accurately picked out Murron Cunningham at the back post, with the defender’s looping header teeing up Addie within the six-yard-box, but before the centre-half could react, Daugherty’s forceful challenge left the defender on the frozen surface.
Optimistic penalty pleas were soon dismissed, with Cunningham’s close-range rebounded effort also denied by the Celtic stopper.
Despite a positive opening to the game, Celtic soon broke the deadlock against the run of play. A floated corner kick from the right sailed invitingly across the Motherwell penalty area, with Hayes bulleting home a direct header.
As the second half resumed, the hosts quickly regained their rhythm, with Gill Inglis almost netting an equaliser. The Motherwell skipper and Kayla Jardine combined on the right-hand side, with the experienced defender chipping a dangerous delivery across the face of goal, but once again the women of steel were unable to capitalise on a vital moment in the game.
Motherwell continued to threaten the Celtic penalty area, with their consistent attacking patterns of play, as Morgan Cross’ chipped through ball narrowly evaded the lurking forwards in the Celtic six-yard-box.
The pacey forward soon sliced through the Celtic backline, capitalising upon the high defensive line to race through on goal, but a perfectly-timed tackle from Hayes salvaged a crucial moment in the game for the Glasgow-side.
With the women of steel continuing to flood the Celtic half in search of an equaliser, Celtic caught the hosts on the counter-attack, netting a decisive second to secure all three points in a closely-fought evening in Lanarkshire.
Paul Brownlie’s side will face a sharp return to action when they travel across the River Clyde to local rivals Hamilton, with the second Lanarkshire Derby of the season on the horizon.