CELTIC goal hero John Hartson has defended fall guy Giorgos Giakoumakis after his penalty-kick miss in the 0-0 draw with Livingston at Parkhead.
The £2.5million striker was entrusted with the stoppage-time award, but squandered the opportunity to fire the Hoops to the Premiership pinnacle with a powderpuff attempt that was comfortably saved by keeper Max Stryjek.
The home fans were puzzled by the decision to allow Giakoumakis, who had rarely figured in the previous 90 minutes-plus, to take the kick while Josip Juranovic, with a 100 per cent record after sinking efforts against Real Betis in Seville in September and St Johnstone in Glasgow the previous weekend, was available and expected to accept the responsibility.
OOPS…Giorgos Giakoumakis watches his timid penalty-kick saved by Livi keeper Max Stryjek.
OOPS…Giakoumakis is flat out after squandering another chance in the dying seconds.
Following the frustrating scoreless stalemate, boss Ange Postecoglou, who bought the forward from Dutch outfit VVV-Venlo in the summer, stood by the player and insisted it was his decision to allow him to take the kick.
Welsh legend Hartson believes some of the criticism of misfiring marksman has been over the top and said: “It was a strange decision that Giakoumakis stepped up to hit the penalty when Juranovic is on the pitch.
“Normally, if you have taken a penalty and scored, you take the next one. It’s a strange one because Giakoumakis hasn’t taken penalties, he hasn’t had one.
GREEK TRAGEDY…Giakoumakis covers his face at full-time.
“I’m not sure why they would make that change when Juranovic has an 100 per cent record.
“When you are a striker, you step up and you think you can slot it away, and (after scoring on his first start against St Johnstone), all of a sudden, it’s two goals in two games.
“But I think you’ve got to go with what the word is from Celtic. He is the designated penalty-taker and he is the one who was going to step up and take it.”
Hartson, speaking on the Go Radio Football Show, added: “What I would say is Celtic had 11 or 12 players, including the substitutions, who played during the 90 minutes for Celtic.
“They had 16 efforts on goal, and two on target, and those 11 or 12 players had the opportunity to win the game.
BHOY WONDER…John Hartson celebrates one of his goals for Celtic.
“They couldn’t win the game, so you can’t just lay the blame on Giakoumakis.
“Some of the things that I was seeing, like ‘hang your head in shame’ and all this. I could name four players right now who missed big penalties.
“Players have lost World Cups. I missed a penalty in a Cup Final, Chris Sutton missed a penalty in a Cup Final, Alan Thompson, the great Henrik Larsson missed penalties.
“What made it more difficult is it was the last second and it was a good opportunity to keep building momentum.
“It’s a great opportunity, but you can’t just lay the blame on Giakoumakis because Celtic had 90 minutes to win that game of football.”