CELTIC were on the receiving end of yet another phantom penalty-kick decision in the midst of VAR bedlam at Tynecastle yesterday.

The champions were down to 10 men following Yang Hyun-jun’s preposterous red card in the 14th minute after technical assistant John Beaton had instructed Don Robertson to review the incident on his touchline monitor.

It had been evident to all that the South Korean winger had attempted to flick the ball over the head of the inrushing Hearts left-back Alex Cochrane.

There was contact between the Celt’s boot and the defender’s head, but it was obvious that no malice was intended. It was bad enough the match official saw fit to administer a yellow card for the accidental coming-together.

But it became farcical when he looked again at the incident and decided it merited a straight red card.

SEEING RED…Yang Hyun-jun has every right to look concerned as referee Don Robertson is about to review his high boot and return with a straight red card.

Brendan Rodgers’ men were still reeling when Beaton intervened again as the interval approached and the chance for the manager to regroup his players and set out his plans for performing with a man short in the second-half.

However, Liam Scales sent a miscued header into the air where Tomoki Iwata and Alistair Johnston challenged rival Stephen Kingsley for the loose ball.

It eventually broke to Alan Forrest whose low cross from the left was cleared by Cameron Carter-Vickers.

While the action continued, eagle-eyed Beaton was getting busy with his remote controls in the Glasgow office. What had he seen that no-one else had spotted?

Look again at these CQN images of the moment Iwata is adjudged to have handled the ball that led to Hearts receiving a ludicrous penalty-kick.

MID-AIR DUEL…Alistair Johnston and Tomoki Iwata team up to challenge Stephen Kinglsey with referee Don Robertson looking on.

PLAY ON…the ball breaks in the direction of Alan Forrest and not one of the seven Hearts players in the vicinity is calling for a penalty-kick.

The first picture shows the moment the three players contest the high ball. Please note that match official Robertson has a clear and uninterrupted view of the incident.

The second image is taken just one second later. Not a solitary home player is claiming a penalty-kick. Not one of the seven! The fans inside the ground were not screaming for a spot-kick, either.

Beaton, though, believed he had observed enough to send Robertson to his trackside monitor again to review the coming-together of three players.

Astoundingly, the referee returned to the pitch and pointed to the spot. In moments life this, you wonder if you are witnessing a remake of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Jorge Grant accepted the gift and slotted it past the bemused Joe Hart and, as the visitors toiled in the second period, Lawrence Shankland claimed a second goal to clinch the points for the hosts.

VAR-CICAL…the flashpoint image flagged up by John Beaton.

The crazy spot-kick decision was very reminiscent of one awarded against Alexandro Bernabei in a game against Dundee United back in November 2022, just a couple of weeks after VAR had been implemented – inflicted might be a more accurate expression – upon Scottish football.

Coincidentally, Celtic’s first taste of the new technical assistant to the onfield official came at Tynecastle the previous month. On that bewildering afternoon, Hearts were awarded two VAR-assisted penalty-kicks – both gleefully and gratefully despatched by Shankland – while a clear handball from Michael Smith from a James Forrest cross was dismissed by Nick Walsh and his back-up Steven McLean.

The Hoops battled through to win 4-3 and managed to get the victory over the line before another VAR interruption.

And then, just a fortnight later, Bernabei was adjudged to have handled a header from Tannadice striker Steven Fletcher. David Dickinson was tasked with looking at the non-event on his trackside monitor by the same Walsh who missed Smith’s bout of basketball in Edinburgh.

SPOT OF BOTHER…Alexandro Bernabei is adjudged to have handled a Steven Fletcher header.

The ref returned, booked a bemused Bernabei, pointed to the spot and Fletcher thrashed the ball past Hart to make it 1-1. Thankfully, Ange Postecoglou’s side won 4-2 on the day.

We could also discuss Dan Casey’s handball deflection of a Yang cross in the champions’ win over Motherwell at Fir Park last weekend when Willie Collum was not even asked by VAR assistant Gavin Duncan to review the moment on his monitor.

Anyone spotting a trend developing here?

You have got to wonder what the officials will inflict upon us when Livingston visit the home of the holders in the Scottish Cup quarter-final on Sunday.

I shudder to think.



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