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Match Previews & Reports

Rangers victorious in thrilling Old Firm SWF Youth Scottish Cup Final

The home of Stenhousemuir FC, Ochilview, played host to three fantastic SWF Scottish Youth Cup Finals on Sunday. One of which was a fiery U16s Old Firm clash jam-packed with tension, drama and immense quality.

Rangers got the ball rolling from centre, and immediately it was clear that both sides possessed calmness on the ball and a magnificent range of passing.

The Hoops gained a very early advantage as an opposition player saw red for an off-the-ball incident. The sending-off triggered relentless attacking play from Celtic, with efforts from Millie McShane and Darra Dawson stinging the palms of Elise Graham in the Rangers goal.

The girls in blue refused to let the numbers advantage halt their ambition to have a go at the Celtic back four. In particular, the industrial May Cruft looked threatening in the opening stages with two long-range strikes testing Celtic keeper Morgan McCroary.

Celtic looked to take the lead after an exquisite one-two between Summer Thomson and Ava Allison teed up the latter for a crack at goal, but her strike went whiskers wide of the net.

Rangers began to get a foothold on the game after a couple of substitutions injected some energy into their play. They began to knock the ball about in the final third and created a golden chance for Imogen Mooney to take the lead. The Gers number four aimed to slot into the bottom corner but a fantastic diving stop from McCroary kept the scores even.

The first goal of the match arrived shortly after, and it went the way of ten-women Rangers. Natalie Bandura fired her side into the lead after a magical turn on the edge of the area creating space for her to bag the cup final’s first goal.

An almost instant reply from the Celts followed. Skye Stout brought the game back to 1-1 when she fired home a 25-yard free kick into the top left of the Rangers goal.

After bringing the score level, Celtic piled on the pressure for a second goal. Right back Harriet Mackay showed off her electric pace to get on the end of a through ball. She zipped a ball across goal, but the outstretched Rangers goalkeeper Alex Reid – who was introduced with half an hour to go – claimed assuredly.

They also crafted a great opportunity to take the lead from the left flank not long after. Dawson delivered a wicked cross along the face of the net but there were no green and white jerseys in the area to poke home.

A flurry of late opportunities for Rangers failed to gift them that cup-winning goal. Cruft’s silky run through multiple challenges climaxed with her attempt crashing off the bar. The last kick of normal time came from a Saoirse Coyle Morrow free kick. Her strike sailed over the bar and into Ochilview’s Donald Smillie Enclosure. The referee’s whistle then sounded to signal extra time.

Celtic seemed to be on the back foot for the first half of extra time as Rangers’ confidence began to grow in the final third.

When it seemed the game was destined for a shootout, the blue side of Glasgow’s persistence in front of goal paid off as Erin O’Brien rose highest to nod home a second for Rangers.

Celtic flung the kitchen sink at a last attack but were caught out defensively when their opponents regained possession. Bandura drove goalwards in acres of space and struck a third, burying the final and sealing the SWF Under 16s Scottish Youth Cup for Rangers.

Rangers Player of the Match: Natalie Bandura

The attacker grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck after the sending-off and continued to be a threat to the Celtic backline throughout normal and extra time. Both of her finishes highlighted excellent ability and composure in front of goal.

Celtic Player of the Match:  Harriet Mackay

Mackay showed great tenacity at full-back and was constantly demanding more from her teammates – showing admirable leadership in both her communication and general play. She consistently displayed her wicked delivery and lightning pace in this cup final, too.

Rangers Magic Moment: Bandura’s Mesmerising Turn and Finish

The Rangers midfielder gracefully spun on the edge of the area with three defenders in her vicinity. She somehow found the space and time to get the ball out of her feet and emphatically fire home the game’s first goal right into the top right corner. A goal suiting for a cup final.

Celtic Magic Moment: Stout’s Stunning Free Kick

This one could be described as a knuckleball. Skye Stout’s equaliser lit up the atmospheric Ochilview when the midfielder blasted a free kick from distance past Rangers stopper Graham – who had no chance of saving.

Rangers U16s

Elise Graham

Abby Hayes

Charley Dickson

Taylor Coulter

Lily Boyce

Saoirse Coyle Morrow

May Cruft

Osla Hunter

Lucy Livie

Erin O’Brien

Lucy Rutherford

Alex Reid

Natalie Bandura

Erin Gilvear

Alba Stewart

Imogen Mooney

Rebecca Simpson

Olivia Kirk

Celtic U16s

Morgan McCroary

Libby Reith

Zoe Mooney

Caitlin Martin

Darra Dawson

Millie McShane

Ava Allison

Skye Stout

Gabriella McStay

Summer Thomson

Emily Tomb

Harriet Mackay

Christi McQuarrie

Emma Knox

Ruby Morrison

Oluwadara Ositelu


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