ALISTAIR JOHNSTON admitted he wasn’t surprised Marcos Lopez didn’t see red after the Peruvian nutter’s headbutt on the Celtic star.

The Hoops defender took a sore one during Canada’s 1-0 Copa America Group A victory over fiery opponents in Kansas City.

Pictures clearly showed Johnston being assaulted by the Feyenoord player, but, remarkably, there was no action from the referee and, even more astoundingly, there was no reaction from VAR after a review of the flashpoint incident just before the interval.

However, the Parkhead fans’ favourite reckoned he would have been in line for instant dismissal if the roles had been reversed.

Johnston said: “It really just encapsulates exactly what we knew we were going to get in this tournament.

HEADCASE…Alistair Johnston is butted by Peru’s Marcos Lopez.

“We can’t rely on the refs to give us anything. We just have to put the ball in the back of the net and pray that VAR lets it stand.

“We really can’t bank on getting any calls here, that’s something we discussed going into this game.

“So I can’t say I was too surprised when I got up and he waved it on. I just know if it had gone the other way I have a feeling it would have been me who would have been walking down that tunnel.

“But that’s football and I am glad the team kept their composure because that was an easy one where we could have lost it. We focused on the task, got in at half-time and regrouped.

“At the end of the day, no matter how ugly it gets, it always feels great when you walk away and get the points. It shows no matter the conditions, we can play against any team.”

Johnston, in a report in the Scottish Sun, added: “It was hard. It was a battle of attrition, which is the best way to describe it.

“It wasn’t really football, it was a mental and physical battle. I am proud of the group for keeping our discipline.

“There was a lot of talk in the media it was going to be a street fight and it ended up turning into one and they eventually got the red card.

GROUNDED…Alistair Johnston hits the turf after the assault.

“We kept our cool. There were moments when we could have retaliated and been silly, but we stuck to the game plan and got the goal.

“It wasn’t pretty but in tournament football, it’s about the result and that’s what the big teams do.

“We have given ourselves a really good chance of getting to the final group stages.”

The only goal of the game arrived in the 74th minute from Jonathan David to give new manager Jesse Marsch his first win since his appointment last month.

Before the matchwinnner, Peruvian tough guy Miguel Araujo was sent off following a VAR check for a wayward challenge on Jacob Shaffelburg.

Johnston and Co kicked off the tournament with a 2-0 loss to Lionel Messi’s Argentina and now face a crucial confrontation with Chile on Sunday.

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