SWPL: Celtic survive red card to beat Stirling University
Celtic survived a late red card and a Stirling University rally to take the three points on their big Scottish Women's Premier League day at Parkhead.
With the game hosted at Celtic Park, goals from Natalie Ross and Jaclyn Poucal edged the home side to a 2-1 win despite Ruesha Littlejohn's dismissal.
That sets them up for a top of the table clash next with SWPL leaders Hibernian, who thumped Hamilton 6-0.
Glasgow City beat Aberdeen 3-0, while Spartans were 3-1 winners over Rangers.
Hibs lead the table by two points with three wins out of three so far, scoring 16 goals and conceding just two.
City, Celtic and Spartans are all level on seven points apiece, with Rangers and Hamilton still to get off the mark this season.
As a club, Celtic are determined to add the women's top-flight title to their growing list of silverware, and with the game staged at Parkhead it was a chance to showcase the women's side to a larger audience.
Initially, they struggled to impose themselves against a well-organised Stirling side, until Heather Richards took charge of proceedings.
The 23-year-old tormented Stirling down the right flank - Jen Godfrey directed one Richards cross towards her own goal which goalkeeper Chloe Logan saved, before Sarah Ewens put the ball just wide from another.
The visitors could not deal with Richards' threat and Ross made no mistake after 38 minutes when she placed the winger's cut-back from the right into the far corner.
Celtic had been largely untroubled, but a Poucal mistake early in the second half allowed Rachel Donaldson to race towards goal. She had options to her right but elected to shoot, sending her effort over the bar.
Two minutes later, Poucal showed her worth at the other end of the pitch, heading in Richards' corner from close range on 51 minutes.
The hosts had chances to stretch their lead even further. Ewens struggled to put any power behind her shot from inside the box, then Littlejohn curled the ball off the post after Lauren Gallon's last-ditch challenge had denied Jamie-Lee Napier.
Richards shot wide from distance before substitute Kirsty Howat forced a great save from Logan; the goalkeeper at full stretch to tip the shot over the bar.
With nine minutes to go the game was turned on its head when Littlejohn was sent off for a rash challenge just minutes after being warned by the referee for a similar tackle.
That gave Stirling the initiative. A poor pass-back from Poucal allowed Nicola Pullar to get free on the left, and her shot bounced off the top of the crossbar.
Stirling kept coming and pulled one back when Michelle Russell bundled in from close range after Celtic failed to clear their lines.
With four minutes added on it made for a nervy finish, but Stirling could not get another sight of goal.
'Too much respect'
Celtic head coach David Haley paid tribute to Richards, who is in her second spell at the club after a stint with Hibs.
"She was excellent," Haley told BBC Scotland. "She's created a good few opportunities for us, not just the goals but other opportunities as well.
"It was just tiredness through the size of the pitch and playing the wing-back position that we changed it.
"I thought the second half was by far our better half. In the first half for whatever reason we came out slow and tentative, we showed Stirling a lot of respect.
"But second half, fair play to them they've moved the ball a lot quicker and I thought we thoroughly deserved our victory even though it was quite tight in the end."