LTL At the Games: SWPL 1 Hibernian 3-0 Celtic

Hibernian leapfrogged rivals Celtic in the race for second after what turned into a comfortable 3-0 win at Ainslie Park thanks to goals from Jamie-Lee Napier, Rachel Boyle and Shannon Leishman.

Both sides came into the game on the back of contrasting cup fortunes but with only three points separating the sides in the league table a victory for either would put them in control of the chase for the runners-up spot, a spot now accompanied by the added incentive of automatic entry to the SWPL Cup Quarter Finals next season.

Hibernian made two changes from the side that fought past Hamilton Academical last week with Chelsea Cornet and Shannon Leishman coming in for Lauren Davidson and Siobhan Higgins. For Celtic, who were disappointing in their 2-0 Quarter Final defeat to Glasgow City, Chloe Logan replaced Megan Cunningham in goal, whilst Natalie Ross and Kelly Clark came back in for Kat Smart and Cheryl McCulloch, respectively.

The game’s first real chance came on the 7th minute when a beautifully weighted through ball from Ellis Notley sent Napier clear through on goal but the striker was only able to put her shot wide of the right hand post. Three minutes later though Napier would take her chance, as she would get on the end of another through ball, this time from Boyle, before showing composure to slot the ball past Chloe Logan in the Celtic goal.

Celtic’s response was immediate as first Josephine Giard would see a shot blocked by Chelsea Cornet before Rachel O’Neill would poke over from the resulting corner but, with Celtic starting to look like they were getting a foothold in the game, Hibs broke away to score a second just sixteen minutes in.

Shannon Leishman picked the ball up just inside the Celtic half, beating two players before releasing Napier down the right hand side, she raced to the byline before cutting the ball across to an onrushing Boyle who volleyed the ball home from close range.

Celtic were still striving to get in the game and on the 28th minute a Sarah Ewens effort from the edge of the area brought out a fine diving save from Jenna Fife in the Hibees goal after good work on the edge of the area by Giard, and the German would be denied by the Hibs defence again just before half time as she rounded Fife only to be met by a sea of blocking bodies. 

The home side were continuing to look dangerous via a combination of attacking passing and counter running and that ability to continue to drive forward came to the fore once again less than a minute into the second half as neat interplay between the returning Cornet and Leishman just inside the Celtic area saw the youngster take a shot which was deflected into the roof of the net past Logan.

The chances kept on coming for Grant Scott’s side as Shannon McGregor, Amy Gallacher, Napier and substitute Colette Cavanagh all missed the opportunity to extend the Hibees lead with Celtic offering very little in the opposing third in a second period that the home side comfortably controlled without adding any further to their tally.

Hibernian can now turn their attention to Prague as they look to overturn a 4-1 UEFA Women’s Champions League deficit against Slavia. For Celtic it’s been two defeats in two putting an end to their impressive winning run and they will be hoping to give a better accounts of themselves in the weeks to come.

Hibernian: Fife, Murray, Hunter, Napier (’80), Michie, McGregor (“80), Leishman (“70), Gallacher, Notley, Cornet, Boyle. Subs: Currie (GK), Cavanagh (“70), Davidson (’80), Higgins (“80).

Celtic: Logan, Keenan, Ross, C. Craig, Giard, Ewens, Donaldson, Clark (’58), Cox, O’Neill (’39), McGovern (”71). Subs: Cunningham, McLaughlin, Smart (’58), Hay (“71), Hodges (39), E. Craig.

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