FORMER Celtic striker Chris Sutton was baffled after VAR denied the champions a penalty-kick in the team’s rousing 4-3 victory over Hearts at Tynecastle yesterday.
New technology was introduced to Scottish football for the first time this weekend and the Hoops were on the receiving end of a few bewildering decisions.
The hosts were awarded a penalty-kick after referee Nick Walsh had deemed a challenge by Cameron Carter-Vickers on Cammy Devlin only to be told by colleague Steven McLean in the VAR control room to review the incident on the pitchside TV monitor.
After a lengthy delay, the spot-kick was awarded and Lawrence Shankland thumped the gift beyond Joe Hart.
In first-half stoppage-time, defender Michael Smith handled a ball from James Forrest which was missed by Walsh. New technology intervened again, but, after a quickfire review, they agreed with the match official not to award a spot-kick.
Earlier, a goal from Anthony Ralston from an Aaron Mooy free-kick was disallowed with Walsh spotting a phantom infringement.
It continued through the second-half with the Edinburgh club being given a second chance at a spot-kick with a retake ordered after Joe Hart had saved the original effort. The ball rebounded to Josh Ginnelly in an offside position and he knocked it over the line.
Before that decision could be made, VAR interrupted with the news players had encroached in the 18-yard box. Shankland gratefully netted with his second attempt.
With the clock ticking down, Liel Abada raced onto a pass from Sead Haksabanovic to tuck an effort wide of Craig Gordon. It was tight, but the goal was immediately chalked off without the intervention of VAR. It was certainly worth a second look.
Thankfully, the champions did manage to get four that counted with strikes from Forrest, Giorgos Giakoumakis, Daizen Maeda and Greg Taylor.
It was an afternoon of contentious decisions – on and off the pitch – and one-time Hoops goal hero Sutton admitted he was perplexed by the speed of the call to rule out the handball when Smith clearly prevented Forrest’s flicked pass reaching its intended target.
The former England international, speaking BBC 606, said: “I think a lot of Celtic fans would have issue with the incident just before half-time. It was James Forrest and Michael Smith.
“Steven McLean was the [VAR] referee. It looked like a penalty and most people would say Michael Smith moved his hand towards the ball.
“Why did it take so long for the award of the Hearts penalty, where most people would says in real-time that it should have been a penalty?
“Then it took such a short space of time to rule out the Celtic one, when that looked an absolute stonewaller?”
CQN put the clock on the Smith handball incident earlier today to report on the actual timing of the decision-making. It’s quite amazing!