FORMER top English Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher yesterday delivered his verdicts on the VAR controversies that engulfed Celtic’s 2-0 loss to Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday.

The incomprehensible decision-making by match official Don Robertson and VAR assistant John Beaton dominated the headlines as a couple of the SFA’s main men collaborated in two of the match’s massive turning points.

Hoops winger Yang Hyun-jun was booked after a clearly accidental collision with defender Alex Cochrane as the South Korean winger attempted to flick the ball over the head of the inrushing left-back in the 14th minute.

Beaton, though, instructed his colleague to review the incident on his trackside monitor. Amazingly, the whistler returned to flash a red card at the stunned Celt to banish him from the pitch.

Gallagher was in the Sky Ref Watch studios to give his considered opinion and he said: “The player is unlucky, but I think it is a red card.

“He has no idea where the player is, he’s genuinely going to get the ball, but if you catch a player in the face with your studs, it’s inevitable you’re going to get a red card.”

Wait a minute, though. Is this the same Dermot Gallagher who offered his verdict on a similar incident with another Celtic player – ironically, South Korean striker Oh Hyeon-gyu – in a Premiership game against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in April last year?

RED CARD…Yang Hyun-jun on Hearts’ Alex Cochrane.
YELLOW CARD…Oh Hyeon-gyu on Kilmarnock’s Liam Donnelly.

NO PUNISHMENT…Dundee United’s Craig Sibbald on Giorgos Giakoumakis.

On that occasion, with the visitors coasting on their way to a 4-1 triumph, the Hoops frontman was involved with a high-boot challenge with hosts’ defender Liam Donnelly on the halfway line.

As you would expect, Derek McInnes, the Killie manager, was crimson-faced in his protests that the Celtic player should be dismissed and there was the usual pathetic waving of imaginary red cards in the face of referee David Dickinson from a posse of home players.

Oh was booked and Gallagher, as reported in CQN at the time, observed: “He doesn’t lead with the studs, he doesn’t see the player coming, so yellow card for me.

“I think the referee has got it absolutely right.

“Careless is free-kick only, reckless is free-kick yellow card and dangerous free-kick red card.

“I think that is reckless, it’s not a boot in the head, is it? It is a boot that may hit his head, but it didn’t.”

Look again at the images involving the South Korean duo at Tynecastle on Sunday and Rugby Park in April last year. What’s the difference, apart from a yellow and red card?

Goodness knows what Dermot would have made of the challenge on Hoops striker Giorgos Giakoumakis when he was hit smack in the face with a studs-up charge from Dundee United’s Craig Sibbald in the hosts’ 4-2 home win in November 2022.

The Greek was felled by the assault, but absolutely no action was taken by the onfield official or the VAR assistant. The referee that afternoon was David Dickinson, the whistler who booked Oh five months later for a lesser offence.

Confused? You will be. Not content with baffling everyone with his take on Yang, ex-ref Gallagher, not unknown to being embroiled in unfathomable decisions when he actually blew a whistle for a living, gave his opinion on the Hearts penalty-kick.

REF WATCH…Dermot Gallagher delivers his verdicts on Sky Sports.

He added: “It was harsh, but what you would say is, one thing they’ve [VAR] been consistent about it in Scottish football this season, any incident like that has been penalised for handball.

“Harsh, very unlucky. But to their credit, every single one has been given.”

Am I to take it you are unaware of the old adage of two wrongs never making a right, Dermot?

And then the one-time ref chucked in his tuppence worth on the award of a spot-kick to the visitors early in the stramash when Yang was sent crashing to the turf by Cochrane.

Robertson immediately pointed to the spot, but, once again, Beaton delayed proceedings until he scrutinised the infringement before accepting he couldn’t find anything wrong with his colleague’s judgement.

Unfortunately, Adam Idah fluffed his attempt from 12 yards and Zander Clark has probably had to deal with more threatening passbacks this season.

CRASH LANDING…Yang Hyun-jun tumbles under the challenge of Alex Cochrane that led to Celtic’s penalty-kick.

Dermot chipped in: “Strangely, I actually thought it was a foul the other way, but the referee gave it. Cochrane is in front, so it’s hard to see how he commits a foul. All I can think is, when you see the other angle, the referee thinks he puts his leg across him.

“He might think he trips him, I don’t know.”

I bet the top-flight players across the border are missing the incisive decision-making of dear, old Dermot who retired his whistle in 2007.

We still have nine Premiership games and, hopefully, three Scottish Cup-ties to be played in this compelling and intriguing campaign.

You just know it’s not going to be plain-sailing, don’t you?

Buckle up, folks, we’re in for a bumpy ride.


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