RANGERS lost their SWPL opener to Glasgow rivals Celtic in bitterly cold conditions at K-Park.
The Rangers line-up featured four debutants; twins Lauren and Jade Gallon who arrived from Stirling in the close season, defender Leah Eddie and former Glasgow City striker Carla Boyce. Khym Ramsay also returned in goal for the Light Blues.
Both teams looked to settle in the early stages by trying to get the ball down and gain a foothold in the match, and it was Boyce who had the first chance in the fifth minute, breaking through the Celtic defence on the left and placing her shot straight at Celtic goalkeeper Cunningham.
Celtic began to assert themselves shortly afterwards, as a deflected clearance allowed forward Sarah Ewans in behind the Gers defence, and she poked the ball past Ramsay, only for it to be cleared off the line by defender Amy Muir.
Just two minutes later Celtic had another effort cleared off the line, as a corner floated over to the back post resulted in a downward header scrambled clear by a combination of Sinclair and Ramsay to keep the scores level at 0-0.
Celtic continued to press forward and had attempts on target saved by the returning Ramsay, however it was Rangers who had the ball in the net first, as the impressive Boyce was played through and slipped the ball under the Celtic goalkeeper, only to be flagged offside.
Celtic nearly took the lead just minutes later but for the fine efforts of Ramsay and the defence. Sarah Ewans drove in from the left and saw her shot hit the post before the ball fell kindly for Nicole Pullar but Ramsay pulled off a terrific point blank save to deny Celtic the lead.
Moments later more heroics from the Rangers defence were required as they cleared another ball off the line following a cross from Fulton, however the brave Gers rear-guard would finally be broken.
Celtic won a controversial corner on the right and from the resulting ball, chaos ensued in the six-yard box. For the first time in the game the Rangers defence failed to clear the danger and the ball landed at the feet of Pullar who bundled home. After continuous defending, it was one goal line clearance too many for the Rangers defence.
Rangers responded with the dangerous Boyce being released by a Jade Gallon ball over the top, however the debuting striker snatched at her shot and couldn’t get the direction right, firing directly at Cunningham.
Rangers followed up their pressure with their best chance of the game so far, as a free kick from the right evaded everyone and found its way through to Brogan Hay at the back post, but the chance seemed to catch the winger by surprise and her poked shot was well saved by Cunningham to preserve Celtic’s 1-0 lead going into the break.
Rangers made two changes at half-time, with Lauren Davidson and Chelsie Watson coming on for the injured Hayley Sinclair and Leah Eddie respectively. However, the second half began with relentless Celtic pressure as Ramsay was called into action again to keep the score at 1-0, before another corner was not dealt with by the Rangers defence and Pullar added her and Celtic’s second of the afternoon.
Celtic excelled after doubling their lead and some impressive passing led to their third goal, as a Ewans’ backheel on the edge of the box released Littlejohn, who finished smartly, low to Ramsay’s right.
Jade Gallon was the first player to be cautioned as she gave away a free kick on the edge of the Rangers 18-yard-box, and from the resulting effort Ramsay again kept the scoreline down, saving well low at her near post from Littlejohn.
Rangers made two more changes in an attempt to change the game as Lisa Swanson was brought on for Caitlin O’Hara and Holly Napier for the impressive Hay.
Pullar then had the chance to extend Celtic’s lead and get her hat-trick after a defensive mix up resulted in Coakley being dispossessed and Pullar saw her shot saved by the onrushing Ramsay.
Jade Gallon was then shown her second yellow card after a tackle to stop a Celtic attack, and Rangers were forced to dig deep and defend for the remaining 12 minutes with 10 players.
The snow began to fall heavily as Rangers bravely battled Celtic and the elements, however despite Gers’ best efforts, they struggled to get out of the own half as Lauren Davidson became increasingly isolated up front, and they were unable to test Cunningham in the final 10 minutes as Celtic held on for a 3-0 opening day win.
RANGERS: Ramsay, Muir, Coakley, L. Gallon, Eddie, Gemmell, J. Gallon, Hay, O’Hara, Sinclair, Boyce
Subs: Baillie, Davidson, Napier, Swanson, Watson, Donnelly