CELTIC were already trailing to a Lawrence Shankland header when referee Kevin Clancy awarded Hearts a free-kick on the half-hour mark.
The match official adjudged Cameron Carter-Vickers had fouled Nat Atkinson about 30 yards from Joe Hart’s goal.
The decision baffled thousands of onlookers at Parkhead as well as astonishing the USA World Cup centre-back and his team-mates.
CQN, after reviewing the incident, are compelled to ask: “Foul? What foul, Mr Clancy?”
BALL-WINNING CHALLENGE…Cameron Carter-Vickers times his tackle to perfection as Nat Atkinson slides in.
Carter-Vickers, making his first-team return after sitting out the previous two games, won the ball fairly as the Hearts player went to ground. The referee, with a good view of the incident, immediately awarded a direct free-kick.
Even the visiting players didn’t shout for a foul immediately. Shankland tried to play on, lost possession and then made his plea.
If the whistlers are going to award free-kicks for such legitimate ball-winning tackles that certainly did not endanger an opponent, then football is finished. It will stop-start for 90 minutes at any sign of a physical challenge.
Maybe Mr Clancy forgot this is a contact sport. Unless, of course, you are a Celtic defender at corner-kicks and the opposition are allowed free headers, a situation that gifted the Tynecastle team the crucial opening goal in the 15th minute.
POINT OF ORDER…Cameron Carter-Vickers takes issue with referee Kevin Clancy after the free-kick award. A surprised David Turnbull looks on.
FREE AND EASY…Stephen Kingsley sweeps the set-play gift past Joe Hart for the second goal.
Back to the free-kick. Stephen Kingsley stepped up to take advantage of the award with a sweeping left-foot effort that curled away from the diving Hart.
And that was the end of the scoring. Yes, we accept this little tale of woe may be seen as clutching at straws, but the simple coming-together between two opponents and a dodgy decision from the man in charge had a massive influence on the outcome of the encounter.
They say these things balance out over the course of the season.
We’re not holding our breath.