Dramatic Derby Ends in a Draw

It was a dramatic derby day at Broadwood Stadium as the Ghirls left it late to steal a point in a 1-1 draw, with Caitlin Hayes grabbing a last minute equaliser. A Celtic State of Mind caught up exclusively with Fran Alonso after the game to gather his thoughts on what he considered to be a well-deserved point.

Celtic entered the tie one point ahead of their city rivals Rangers, with all eyes on closing the gap on league leaders Glasgow City. Fran made two changes to the side that beat Hearts 5-1 in the Cup, with Hana Kerner and Shen Menglu coming in for Natalie Ross and Lisa Robertson. Just before kick-off, Celtic announced the singing of American forward Kit Loferski, who immediately joined up with the match day squad, taking her place on the bench.

The game got off to a rather frantic start, with neither side particularly finding their rhythm. With 15 minutes played, Tasha Flint was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet after goalkeeper Jenna Fife’s clearance deflected off her. Celtic could also consider themselves unlucky not to win a penalty after Caitlin Hayes was pulled to the ground at a corner, however the referee waved play on.


After an even first 35 minutes, Rangers took the lead in unfortunate circumstances for the Celtic defence, with a mix up between Clark and Tajonar allowing Brogan Fay an easy finish.

Fran acknowledged that the team were not at their best in the first half, saying: “[Rangers] were the better team in the first half – we only created one good chance. We didn’t play as good as we normally do or create as many opportunities as normal, but that is credit to the opponent. They moved the ball well and pressed us well. The game needed change and we did that with tactical changes at half time.”

Fran changed the shape of his team at the break, bringing on Natalie Ross for Taylor Otto. The performance improved in the second half, although no clear cut chances were created. Fran explained the change saying: “We went more aggressive and put an extra player up front. That helped us and gave us more of a threat. I think we controlled the game better in the second half. It was a game of little chances, they were solid defensively but we had more opportunities in the second half and it was a fair result in the end.”

New signing Loferski looked lively following her introduction in the 70th minute, and gave fans a glimpse of her ability and pace. Fran explained that she had impressed during a recent trial, saying “She is a very fast player, she has great striking ability and is very good in 1v1 situations. She can play wingback 10 and centre forward. [For the second part of the season], there will be weeks where we have 3 games – it is important to have a big fit squad, and Kit is going to help us with that.”


Celtic ramped up the pressure in stoppage time, pushing both Caitlin Hayes and Clare O’Riordan forward in pursuit of a goal. They reaped the rewards, with a long ball splitting the Rangers defence, which Hayes capitalised on, beating Fife and slotting the ball into the empty net.

The 99th minute goal proved to be the last action of the game, epitomising the Club’s we never stop attitude. This attitude is “non-negotiable” for Fran Alonso. He said “We have that mentality every day at training because the players are fighting for a position. When they lose their position they cannot give up, they have to keep fighting, they have to earn the position back. That will make them better players and the players in their positions better players. It is the same with games, until the final whistle we cannot give up, we have to keep believing. The shouts from the bench were “believe, keep going, it’s coming”.”

Despite the belief from the bench, Fran did admit that an element of frustration crept in, as the clock ticked down. He said “It was made more difficult, the ball boys and girls were taken away, there were a lot of [Rangers] players going down to try earn some seconds. We were getting frustrated, we wanted the ball in play. But we still didn’t give up, and I think we deserved the goal. It is a reward for the mental strength and never stop attitude at the Club.”

Fran was full of praise for goal scorer Caitlin Hayes, who is certainly not shy of a big game goal. He said “She worked hard with our fitness coach all summer and she came back from pre-season with a high level of fitness. She is very fast for a centre half and yesterday you could see that she can also be fast for a striker! You could see that from the goal, it was a great, great striker run. I am delighted for her, I think it has been a brilliant season for her on and off the pitch.”

Caitlin, in her trademark pink headband, is now one of the more experienced players in the side, and has created a real bond with the fans. Fran noted “Caitlin is one of those players who has been inspiring the young girls. You see the pink hairbands in the stands, and that makes me very proud. She is working extremely hard, and things are going her way because of that”.


The jubilation of a stoppage time winner was only slightly overshadowed by unsavoury scenes from the Rangers bench, with coach Craig McPherson headbutting Celtic manager Fran Alonso after the full time whistle. The incident was as surprising to Fran as it was to those watching. He said “I was surprised. I didn’t know that was coming. It is a Glasgow Derby, there is a lot of passion and excitement, most games are very tight. There is always some interchange between the dugouts. During the game I have had a chat with [Ranger’s manager] Malky. We talk to each other before and after the game, we respect each other. But I had no interaction at all with his assistant manager. No disagreements, nothing. So I cannot tell you why that happened. I think it is a disappointment thing – we scored in 99th minute, our fans were over the moon, the noise was incredible. So he is disappointed.”

While disappointing to see such behaviour at any level of football, it shouldn’t mar what was an otherwise great showcase for women’s football, with the match being broadcast live on Sky Sports Main Event channel. On the last minute nature of the equaliser and drama that ensued, Fran said “It was amazing the way it happened, with a centre back going up front – it was a fantastic way of rescuing a point. But then there are things that happen that have nothing to do with football, and that is what we are talking more about. For him, it’s frustration. I am sure he will regret it, a lot. I am totally ok, but there is no excuse, it is something you don’t want to see.”


The result leaves the girls 1 point ahead of Rangers in the all-important Champions League position, but 8 points behind leaders Glasgow City. While Celtic still have to play Glasgow City twice, Fran is aware that the league title will be a challenge now that it is not in the team’s own hands. Fran acknowledged that this was “the only negative thing” about the result. He said “We knew [before the game] that if we won every game we were Champions. We knew this was going to be the most difficult game, it is a very difficult pitch. But now we don’t depend on ourselves, we depend on Glasgow City dropping points. I think that if we win our remaining games we still have an excellent chance of being Champions, because I don’t think any team is going to get maximum points from their remaining games. So if we manage to do that, then we can still be Champions. If we cannot achieve that, we need to make sure we are in Europe next year, so second position is important. But we only think about winning every game left and trying to win our first league title.”

With plenty of football still to be played this season, it is more important than ever to have a good crowd along supporting the girls in their pursuit of silverware. Fran and the team have regularly spoken about the impact the crowd can have on the game, and he did so again following last night’s derby. He said: “The last minute goal was for the fans. You could hear the fans in the stands helping the players, lifting them. I say to the players every week, what we do we do for the fans. And every week you can hear them louder, and in more numbers. They are following us everywhere, home and away, and we feel more connected to them and hope we can make them proud. I want to say thank you to the fans, your support really matters to us.”




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