ANGE POSTECOGLOU stood in silence on the touchline as VAR urged referee David Dickinson to have a look at the touchline monitor to check a possible handball in Celtic’s dramatic 4-2 triumph over Dundee United at Parkhead yesterday.
Ludicrously, technical assistant Nick Walsh had instructed the match official to review an incident where a header from Steven Fletcher had hit the elbow of Alexandro Bernabei who was not even looking at the ball.
The Celtic left-back’s arm was in a perfectly natural position considering he had been involved in an aerial duel, but Postecoglou wore a wry smile as the whistler made his way to the touchline to view the screens.
LOOKING DOWN…Ange Postecoglou awaits the VAR decision on the so-called Alexandro Bernabei handball.
We all knew what was coming next, a pattern was set on day one when Walsh was the man in charge of the first weekend of new technology when he had Steven McLean as his colleague in the studio and between them they created chaos and confusion before the champions won a seven-goal encounter against Hearts at Tynecastle.
One of the many bloopers that hectic afternoon in the capital was to completely ignore a blatant handball from defender Michael Smith when he clearly motioned his left hand towards a cross from James Forrest. Walsh didn’t see it while McLean took all of 28 seconds to review it and decide there was no offence.
The Hoops had opened the scoring against their Tayside visitors in the sixth minute when the lively Sead Haksabanovic had claimed his first goal for the club as he tucked the ball away at the far post after a sweeping cross from Filipe Jota on the left.
Three minutes later, the visitors were invited back into proceedings with the gift of a nonsensical spot-kick and Fletcher thrashed the award down the centre of the goal as Joe Hart took off for his left.
SCREEN TEST…VAR look again at the handball incident as Steven Fletcher’s hader hits Alexandro Bernabei on the elbow. Ref David Dickinson (right) is about t award a penalty-kick after viewing the flashpoint moment on the touchline screen.
Postecoglou kept calm as his players carried on. Haksabanovic netted a second before the interval and once again there was a VAR interruption. The manager was far from happy with the stop-start antics of Walsh as he pored over his screens in the anonymity of an office elsewhere in the city.
It looked as though Celtic had allowed two points to drift away when a left-wing cross from Dylan Levitt foxed Hart on its way into the net in the 90th minute of a match that should have been done and dusted in the first hour.
Justice was done when Kyogo Furuhashi neatly headed in the third and Liel Abada raced onto an excellent through ball from the superb Matt O’Riley to tuck the fourth past the keeper in the fading moments of stoppage time.
After the champions’ twelfth win in 13 Premiership outings, Postecoglou observed: “Just to be clear here – I don’t have a problem with VAR, but I have a problem with how it is being used.
“There is no secret that we want to be a team who plays at a high tempo, especially at home because we think that is effective for us, but also it is entertaining for the fans.
“I don’t think people fell in love with football just to be sitting around waiting for someone in a building miles away to decide outcomes.
“They don’t need to take that long. Even our second goal. Our players are celebrating for about two minutes and we are still waiting all that time. To see what? What? I still don’t know what it was.
“If you can’t decide in two minutes, then it is probably not there.
“If they have seven camera angles it seems like they want to look at every one. I might be on my own on this one, but I will cop people making mistakes but I just don’t feel comfortable. I know it is early doors and it is a new toy that everyone wants to use, but you can’t be disrupting games like this.
“I don’t think it is good for anyone.”
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT…Ange Postecoglou’s reaction to the no handball decision by referee Nick Walsh and VAR assistant Steven McLean in Celtic’s 4-3 win at Hearts two weeks ago.
Giorgos Giakoumakis was floored by a wayward high-boot, studs-up challenge from Craig Sibbald in the first-half. Astoundingly, referee Dickinson didn’t even see it as any sort of foul.
VAR checked it out as a possible red-card incident, but no-one of a Celtic persuasion held their breath on the merest possibility of the United culprit being banished. And so it proved with the Tannadice player the most relieved man in the east end of Glasgow.
Looking at the collision, most probably an instant dismissal anywhere else in world football, the Greek-Australian gaffer said: “He hasn’t even given a foul. I wasn’t blowing up that it was a red card. He is in a booth and he sees it, but really .. we have to wait that long to come to a decision?
“To me the referee is close enough there. The same thing happened with Tony Watt last week.
BEMUSED…Alexandro Bernabei is clearly bewildered at the handball/penalty-kick decision. The Argentinian left-back was also booked for not being quick enough to get his elbow out of the way of a close-range header.
“No free-kick and then a red card and then it gets overturned. I’ll cop teething problems, but we have got to be learning along the way. I mean five minutes added onto the first-half of a game of football. It is crazy. For what?”
Postecoglou subbed Bernabei at the interval after the Argentinian had been been booked for the controversial handball call. The boss decided he could not take the chance of his player being caught out by another VAR call.
He said: “It seems like any time the ball touches your hand in the box – apart from when you are playing Hearts away – it’s a penalty.
“So, if that’s the case, they could have seen that in the first screen that it hit Berna’s arm. He had no idea that it hit his arm. It seems to me the interpretation these days is if it hits your hand it’s a penalty.
“But why take so long? If they see it hits his arm, it’s a penalty, let’s get on with it.
THAT’S MY BHOY…Matt O’Riley congratulates two-goal Sead Haksabanovic who claimed his first Celtic strikes against Dundee United.
“He can’t even see the ball. He goes up for a header and his arm is in, I think, a natural position when you go up for a header. He is not even looking at it and it’s a yellow card.
“It’s the reason I took him off at half-time, I had no faith that I could keep him on because anything could come across. It’s changing our game. It’s changing what we all knew to be the laws of the game.
“They are not what they used to be.”
Postecoglou, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “I was always pretty clear what a handball was, deliberate handball. I played the game, you kind of know. But it seems that’s not the way.
“That’s the problem we have got now, we have let technology come into the game and rules that have been in place for over a century that we are all comfortable with are all of a sudden having to be looked at.
“I don’t think that’s what VAR was for. VAR, I thought, was there to pick up clear and obvious errors.
“Clear and obvious. Someone is having a shot from that distance and it hits his arm, how they can say that’s clear and obvious? I don’t get it. That’s not the case anymore.
HAIL THE HERO…Kyogo Furuhashi runs away in delight after heading in Celtic’s third goal.
“The problem is with technology is they are going to have to change a lot of rules because they are re-refereeing the game, which is the one thing they said they wouldn’t do. But they are, there’s no doubt about it.
“And I feel for the officials because I have no doubt that they are scared to make decisions, they would much rather let it go and see if VAR picks something up. We scored the second goal and we were celebrating for two minutes and they are still checking when they are about to kick off.
“What the hell were we waiting for? There was nothing there, I could see that in the first screen.
“We can’t take away from the fact that we have 60,000 people here. Of course, they want to see us win, but they are also coming to watch a spectacle. They are not coming to watch someone in a building miles away take two or three minutes to make a decision.
“I just don’t think that’s what it’s for. Anyway, that’s my rant.”