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‘REF COULDN’T EXPLAIN GRIFFITHS BOOKING,’ RODGERS

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BRENDAN RODGERS revealed blundering Spanish referee Alejandro Hernandez was unable to respond to questions about his ridiculous decision to book Leigh Griffiths in the 2-0 win in Belfast last night.

The Celtic striker was pelted by objects, including a bottle, as he attempted to take a corner-kick with the Hoops already two goals ahead over Linfield in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier.

Griffiths had to walk the gauntlet of hate from the yobs who congregated near the left wing corner flag in the 64th minute.

Mystifyingly, the match official chose to flourish a yellow card as he attempted to get the debris off the field before he could take the kick.

Hernandez, well known in his homeland for crazy decisions, apparently and ludicrously thought the Hoops frontman was wasting time while the missiles flew all around him.

Afterwards, Celtic boss Rodgers said the officials “could not explain” why the caution was given to his player.

He said: “It happens [missiles being thrown]in other grounds, it’s not just here.

“It’s not ideal in any situation, you don’t want that to happen in any ground.

“I thought it was strange him getting booked for it.”

Asked whether he was concerned during the game, Rodgers replied: “I didn’t see or haven’t heard as of yet what was thrown on – I could only see it from the dug-out.

“It was maybe a bottle of some sort, but anything, whether it’s a coin or a bottle or whatever, shouldn’t happen.

“Players go on to the field and it should be a safe environment for them. You want the passion from the stands to stay in there. But if you take that away from it, it was a good evening.”

Jonny Hayes was similarly targeted by the unruly mob when he, too, went to take a left-wing corner-kick.

At that stage, Linfield chairman Roy McGivern walked down to that area of the stadium, but his intervention failed to prevent a number of further incidents.

Then, after the final whistle, some so-called supporters attempted to invade the pitch when Griffiths tied a Celtic scarf to one of the goalposts. 

“The club will be reviewing our own footage and investigating,” a Linfield statement read.

“We are obviously very disappointed that a small number of people chose not to respect the club’s wishes. There will be serious and lasting consequences for anyone involved.”

Celtic had refused tickets for the first leg due to security fears.

But there were around 300 travelling fans inside the half-full ground to see first-half goals by Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic secure a first-leg victory for the Scottish champions.

Rodgers’ men were comfortable victors as they looked to set up a third qualifying round meeting with either Norwegian champions Rosenborg or Irish title winners Dundalk.

A 60,000 sell-out will watch the formality at Parkhead on Wednesday as Linfield – and a section of their vile support – are banished from the tournament.

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