Glasgow City kicked off their SWPL title defence with a 3-2 win over Rangers at Petershill Park, in a match which was more about the battling qualities of both sides rather than creativity and inspiration.
Goals from Sarah Crilly, Jo Love and Eilish McSorley secured City all three points, despite Rangers scoring through Hollie Thomson and Megan Foley.
The opening minute of the game saw Rangers peg back Glasgow City in their own half and under pressure from the Rangers front line, City defender Nic Docherty knocked an attempted backpass past keeper Alexander and out for a Rangers corner, which came to nothing.
Minutes later and City really should have taken the lead. A great through ball from Leanne Ross set up Jo Love who fired a low shot past Rangers keeper Khym Ramsay rushing out from her goal, but the ball trundled past the wrong side of the far post and out for a goal kick.
On 8 minutes a carbon copy move from City saw Ruesha Littlejohn play a defence splitting ball to Sarah Crilly, who raced through on goal, but Ramsay this time gathered the ball at the feet of the former Accies player.
City began to exert continued pressure on the Rangers backline and Angie Hinds side had a great escape on 14 minutes, when Jo Love went on a fine solo run down the left flank before laying the ball off to Suzanne Malone, but the City striker ballooned her shot over the bar from 12 yards out.
Just moments later, City’s pressure paid off as Sarah Crilly broke the deadlock. Eilish McSorley flighted in a ball to the unmarked Crilly at the back post and drilled her shot low past Ramsay, her first competitive goal for City since her switch in the close season from Accies.
It was 2-0 City five minutes later, a determined run from Malone into the Rangers box saw the striker pull the ball back for Crilly whose shot was saved point-blank by Ramsay, but the rebound fell to Love who fired the ball into the back of the net.
Malone was again at the heart of City’s attacking threat and she could have made it 3-0 moments later but her header was superbly tipped onto the bar by Ramsay.
That miss proved costly for City as Rangers raced up the other end and from a Jill Paterson set piece pulled a goal back as Hollie Thomson rose highest in the City box to head past a scrambling Alexander in goals but to no avail.
On the half hour mark, Rangers denied City once again as a Malone goal bound shot was cleared off the line by Michelle Barr.
With the City defence less than convincing at the Rangers goal, they had to respond to another set piece on 34 minutes when another Paterson free kick was launched into the City box, but despite initially gathering the ball Alexander fumbled it, but gathered the ball at the second attempt.
Rangers then had a good effort from Kathryn Hill just outside the box, but it was straight at Alexander and she saved comfortably. Another speculative shot from Rangers saw Cunningham fire straight at the keeper.
Just before the half time break, City could have increased their lead to two goals when Crilly fired in a cross into the box for Malone. However, her header was straight into the ground and comfortably gathered by Ramsay in the Rangers goal.
At half time, Rangers made a substitution with Lisa Swanson making way for Megan Foley.
Six minutes into the second half and a Ruesha Littlejohn shot goes just wide of the Rangers goal. Just two minutes later however, City were 3-1 to the good as Eilish McSorley rose high into the air and headed past a helpless Ramsay.
There were several controversial decisions in the match, the first saw a City penalty claim waved away as Suzanne Malone looked to have been fouled in the box. But the referee waved play on.
That two goal margin didn’t last long as Megan Foley scored Rangers’ second. This was the second controversial decision made by the referee as Megan Foley closed down McSorley, only for it to look like she had handled the ball before lobbing Alexander in the City goal to make it 3-2. City protested that a foul should be given and McSorley picked up a booking for dissent.
With little under four minutes remaining, the third controversial decision was made as City were denied a clear penalty. With another set piece fired into the box, Malone went to collect the ball in the box only for her to forcibly end up on the ground after she was clearly shoved in the back by a Rangers defender. Despite the linesman only yards away, the officials failed to award the spot kick.
The last action of the game saw Malone again causing problems inside the Rangers box, but her header struck the woodwork and was cleared.
After the match City striker Suzanne Malone commented on the performance, she said: “I think we made it really hard for ourselves. At times when we got the ball down we played some really good football, we were in control of it [the game]. But then at other times we just let them [Rangers] back into it with two really stupid goals to lose. Overall we got the three points and we dug in and I think that’s the most important thing early on in the season.”
She added: “I think everybody expected us not to be the same team. But I think we are just as strong as ever, we’ve got great great players. It shows by how many players went away to Cyprus with the Scotland squad, it shows the depth of our squad and we’re only going to get better.”
City head coach Eddie Wolecki Black added: “I thought it ended up really scrappy to be honest with you. We didn’t keep the ball well as we have done in the past. But the important thing is we got the three points and that’s the biggest thing at the start of the season. You want to get off to a good start and we have done that.”
We questioned on the lack of creativity at times from his side, with the loss of Jane Ross and Emma Mitchell coupled with injuries, Black continued: “I think more than that, was the fact that we just got eight players back on Friday. So we had a two hour training session on Friday night to prepare for the first game of the season. So it was not ideal and you have to bear in mind that we ended up cutting the training session short because the girls were dead on their feet. But we can only get better there’s no doubt about that.”
Rangers head coach Angie Hinds was pleased with the way her new charges played, she said: “I have to say I am really proud of how we played. We started a little nervously and City took advantage of that by scoring two early goals. However to see our response was fantastic. I think we worked tremendously hard and put them under real pressure for much of the game. To come back twice showed the character of players we have.
“I think the manner in which we moved the ball in attack was great at times and the two goals we scored were fantastic. We knew this would be a challenging first game and whilst disappointed not to take some points from it we certainly can take a lot of positives.”
Glasgow City: Lee Alexander, Leanne Ross, Eilish McSorley (Danni Pagliarulo), Nicky Docherty, Lisa Robertson, Jo Love, Leanne Crichton, Sarah Crilly, Suzanne Lappin, Ruesha Littlejohn (Melrose), Suzanne Malone.
Subs not used: Cheryl Gallagher, Ciara Barnes, Laura Williamson.
Rangers Ladies: Khym Ramsay, Lesley Condie, Michelle Barr, Jill Paterson, Karen Penglase, Kathryn Hill, Megan Sneddon, Hollie Thomson, Natalie Ross, Hayley Cunningham, Natalie Ross, Lisa Swanson (Megan Foley).
Subs not used: Leanne Hughes, Sophie Riley, Amie McGill, Jennifer Condie, Rachel Halliday, Rebecca Blair.
Referee: Jennifer Carberry
Player of the match: Jo Love
For more Match Photos check out the Scotzine official Flickr page