IT took referee Bobby Madden THREE SECONDS to flash the red card at Nir Bitton at Ibrox yesterday.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon stated he thought the match official was a bit hasty in his actions to banish the Celtic defender after his 62nd-minute foul on Alfredo Morelos in the champions’ unfortunate 1-0 loss.

Madden, who ignored a stamp on Jeremie Frimpong from the controversial Colombian after only five minutes, didn’t hesitate on this occasion as he reached for his red card like a quick-draw specialist in a Wild West gunfight.

QUICK DRAW MADDEN…referee Bobby Madden flashes the red card.

The whistler didn’t even wait for his assistant to raise his flag after the awkward challenge by the Israeli international who emphasised once again he is not a central defender with his positioning and his unconventional efforts to halt the Govan hitman.

Morelos never needs a second invitation to caress the turf and images show he is ready for a slalom as soon as he feels contact from the floundering Bitton. It’s a clear foul, there is no denying that fact. It’s stupid, rash and will always be punished – but not always by a lightning swift red card.

CQN timed the flashpoint incident and from the first point of contact to the players tumbling to the ground it was all of three seconds for Madden to flash the red. The linesman didn’t even get the opportunity to wave his flag. The ref clearly did not require assistance on this occasion. The big decision was his and he was swift to accept the responsibility.

HERE WE GO…Nir Bitton prepares to haul back Alfredo Morelos.

HOLD ON…the Celt gets his arm around his opponent’s waist.

CRASH LANDING…Bitton and Morelos hit the turf.

REF OFF…Bitton and Morelos are on the ground as Madden prepares to go for his red card before the linesman has the chance to raise his flag.

But, Lennon argued, why was it a straight red? We can rule out violent and dangerous conduct from Bitton with Morelos in more danger of getting a cuddle than a kick.

So, was it a clear and obvious goalscoring opportunity? It doesn’t matter if it’s Morelos or Messi, the laws of the game are the same for everyone. It doesn’t matter, either, that the Ibrox player has NEVER scored against Celtic. He even missed from the penalty spot in the Betfred League Cup Final when the Hoops triumphed 1-0 in December 2019.

What does matter, though, is that the referee must have deemed it a red card situation with Morelos in with a ‘clear and obvious’ goalscoring opportunity.

That normally covers a player going through with just the keeper to beat before being taken out of play. That most certainly was not the case with Bitton and Morelos. A lot of work was still required. It’s all conjecture that he might have scuffed his shot into the empty stands or fired a rocket into the net.

If referees around the country believe players being fouled in these areas is a ‘clear and obvious’ opportunity, there are going to be an awful lot of red cards.

Three seconds to make up his mind in a match of this magnitude? An encounter where the outcome will surely go a long way towards the destination of the league title?

Bobby Madden could never be accused of dithering. Not in this case, anyway.


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