3-4 wins at Tynecastle are the stuff of legends, games when champions show their credentials. The excitement, however, took second place to our inaugural appearance in domestic football with a Video Assistant Referee.
After taking an early lead, Celtic lost their way in the first half as Hearts pushed for an equaliser. A minute before the break Cammy Devlin knocked the ball forward an instant before Cameron Carter-Vickers made contact with the Hearts player’s foot. Referee Nick Walsh missed the contact, which was clear on first viewing of the replay, but the VAR seemed caught in the headlights and took several minutes to advise the ref to take a look at the video monitor.
It was all downhill from there. Within seconds, James Forrest drove inside the Hearts box but was stopped in his path when Michael Smith’s extended arm stopped the ball inside the box. This was the classic scenario VAR was supposed to address, a stonewaller by any measure, but fresh from his panic a few moments earlier, the VAR declined to intervene.
Anthony Ralston then scored an excellent headed goal but before the ball crossed the line, Nick Walsh blew for an apparent infringement. That early whistle meant VAR was unable to act. It is beyond doubt the referee made a mistake in blowing early, for my take, the goal should have stood.
Now we get to the bizarre episode. At both Hearts penalties, Hearts and Celtic players encroached into the box before the kick was taken. At the first, the goal stood, at the second, Joe Hart saved and Hearts scored an offside goal in the follow up.
The second penalty was retaken in line with the rules (a retake is the correct decision if players from both sides encroach). The fist penalty, which results in a Hearts goal, was allowed to stand by the same VAR. Either both should have been retaken, or as neither affected the outcome, both should have been allowed to stand.
Late in the game, Liel Abada scored what looked to be a good goal, but the assistant referee flagged for offside, confirmed by VAR. I am not convinced, and broadcaster Sky did viewers a disservice by declining to apply the cross-field lines they used for other decisions during the game.
It was an incompetent start with the new technology that did not reflect well on the SFA or referees.
I don’t want to put ideas in your head, so fee free to choose any one of the 5 million Slovaks, but which of them does Reo Hatate most remind you of?