CELTIC players will remain totally focused on winning games, despite the VAR presence that interrupted the fluency of their style in the 4-3 win over Hearts at Tynecastle.
Controversies surrounding the new technology and the overall erratic performance from referee Nick Walsh, with or without outside influence of assistant Steven McLean in the control room, could have wrecked the champions’ concentration.
Three main points went unanswered and will undoubtedly remain so.
ONE: Why did VAR spend a mere 28 SECONDS looking at Michael Smith’s clear handball when he illegally blocked a pass from James Forrest, as CQN flagged up yesterday? McLean and Co made a remarkably speedy review of the situation to deny the Hoops a spot-kick.
PRIZE GUYS…Anthony Ralston joins in with his team-mates to congratulate James Forrest on his opening goal against Hearts. Former Hoops No.1 Craig Gordon doesn’t share their joy.
TWO: What did Walsh see that brought an immediate shrill from his whistle as Aaron Mooy’s free-kick was in the air and eventually thumped into the net off Ralston’s head that would have made it 2-0?
If it was for minimal contact between Giorgos Giakoumakis and Robert Snodgrass, then the referee will be awarding penalty-kicks at every corner-kick if he continues to be so diligent. Consistency is the watchword.
THREE: Did VAR even look at this incident? And did they also review the situation when Liel Abada raced onto a Sead Haksabanovic through pass to place the ball behind Craig Gordon which would have made it 5-3? It was tight and surely warranted another look.
All these interferences could have impacted on a team’s attention and disrupted the entire thought process. Thankfully, Ange Postecoglou’s men stuck doggedly to their task and won with goals from James Forrest, Giakoumakis, Daizen Maeda and Greg Taylor, the team’s unlikely matchwinner with his first Premiership strike for the club.
Ralston is confident he and his colleagues will remain switched on as they continue their pursuit of triumphs and honours.
TWIN STRIKERS…Giorgos Giakoumakis and James Forrest were both on target at Tynecastle.
The Scotland international right-back said: “When the the ball goes out for a throw-in, corner, VAR stoppage, whatever it may be, we stay 100 per cent committed and focused.
“Personally, the stoppages don’t affect me. I think I can speak on behalf of the boys and say it won’t affect them.
“Everything to do with that is outside noise to us. It’s about focusing on the task at hand at all times.”
Teams will be forced to accept the eccentricities of the new system and Ralston added: “We’re going to have to. It’s in the game now. It’s not something that’s going to change, so we have to adapt to it and I don’t see it affecting us at all.”
Asked about the lightning-swift shriek from Walsh’s whistle as Mooy’s free-kick was sent into the box, Ralston reacted: “Ach, these things happen.
LIFT-OFF…Daizen Maeda is hoisted high by Reo Hatate after netting the third goal.
“Look, I’m not the one to make the decisions, it’s up to the referees. I’ve heard that it should stand or whatever, but it’s part and parcel.
“Like I said, I’m not the referee. It’s out there in the heat in the moment. Obviously, I’d like to have my goal stood if it was meant to stand, but, again, these things happen.
“I just concentrated on putting the ball in the net. I don’t know what it should have been. From my point of view, I’ve put the ball in the net and he’s not given it.”
That dodgy decision was made in the 21st minute and no doubt a second goal for the visitors at that point would have changed the entire complexion of the contest.
Reflecting on the actual match, Ralston, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “It was a tough day, but we expected that. It just shows the character we have as a team to see it through and come away with the victory.
PICK IT OUT…Greg Taylor sets off on his victory jig after hitting the winner past the grounded Craig Gordon.
“It’s football. Sometimes not everything is going to go to plan and it’s not always going to be a smooth ride. As I said, it just shows the character we’ve got in the team.
”The game never stops in our eyes and that’s always a clear message we’ve got as a team. To keep going to come away with nothing but the win.
“That’s the clear message we’re given. We don’t stop until the end of the game.
“Credit to the boys, they showed a lot of character to take their chances in key moments, even against adversity, and we sent the fans up the road happy.
“It’s not in our character to think it’s not our day. That’s drilled into us by the manager. That we don’t ever give up on the win. That’s what we are out there to do.”
The Hoops go back into action against Shakhtar Donetsk at Parkhead tomorrow night in the Champions League which, of course, operates with VAR.
There is every chance the encounter will pass without anyone noticing technology which will be in the hands of officials who know what they are doing.