CELTIC's women boosted their chances of being crowned Scottish champions for the first time in their existence this afternoon when they held their nearest challengers Rangers to a 0-0 draw at Broadwood.

Elena Sadiku’s side recovered well from a disappointing first-half and were unfortunate not to net in a second-half they had by far the better of.

However, the result against Jo Potter’s team still puts them in a commanding position with three games of the 2023/24 season remaining.

They are currently level with their city rivals at the top of the SWPL 1 table – but they have a vastly superior goal difference and if they prevail in all of their remaining fixtures they will lift the trophy.  

Rangers had completed a treble at the PFA Scotland Awards in Glasgow last night with Potter, Rachel Rowe and Mia McAulay picking up the SWPL 1 Manager, Player and Young Player of the Year awards respectively.

That, though, is not the clean sweep of silverware which the Govan club are really interested in just now. The SWPL Cup winners are through to the SWF Scottish Cup final have the opportunity to lift every major honour this term. This result damaged their prospects of doing so.

The war of words between opposition managers Potter and Sadiku in the build-up to the encounter added a little bit of extra spice to proceedings.

The former had complained about the amount of time it had taken Celtic to do their pre-match huddle in their cup semi-final last month and claimed her girls had showed their superior fitness towards the end of that tie. The latter, not surprisingly, took a dim view of those remarks.

No quarter was given by either side on the field once referee Stewart Luke got proceedings underway. But this was an Old Firm derby which was distinctly lacking in the bile and bitterness of its male equivalent.

A bumper crowd turned up at a fixture which was being screened live by Sky Sports. Fans wearing blue mixed with supporters decked out in green and white in the stands without a hint of trouble. Together, they generated a party, not a toxic, atmosphere. No sectarian songs were given an airing.

Rangers’ followers were far happier than their Celtic counterparts with what they witnessed during the opening 45 minutes. The home team dominated the early exchanges and the visitors struggled to get out of their own half.

Defender Eilidh Austin struck the crossbar with a powerful shot from fully 30 yards out and striker Kirsty Howat also forced a save from goalkeeper Kelsey Daugherty with another long-range attempt.

But it was Celtic who had the best scoring opportunity of the first-half against the run of play after Murphy Agnew chipped over the heads of the Rangers defence and sent Natasha Flint through on goal. Her team mate fired just wide of the right post.

That chance seemed to rouse Kelly Clark and her team mates to life. They started the second-half far more brightly and Victoria Esson did well to hold a deflected Flint attempt.

Esson then tipped a goal-bound Flint effort after the striker had been supplied in the opposition area by Lucy Ashworth-Clifford.

Potter threw on Kathy Hill and Brogan Hay for Austin and Rowe respectively in a bid to get her side back into the game.

She made a triple substitution in the closing stages – Sarah Ewens replaced Rio Hardy, Rachel McLaughlan took over from Tessel Middag and Jane Ross allowed Howat to go off. McAulay struck the crossbar at the end of regulation time.

But it was not to be Rangers’ day and it was the Celtic players and supporters who celebrated at the end of the 90 minutes.

Celtic have to play Partick Thistle, Hearts and Hibernian while Rangers still have to face defending champions Glasgow City away as well as Hibs and Thistle. There is still a lot of football to be played by both teams before anything is decided.

But it is very much advantage Celtic.