Let’s start with what the other side think. Motherwell manager, Steven Hammell, complained about Celtic’s second goal. Matt Penney took a throw-in and hit Sead Haksabanovic, who was returning to the field having run off with Penney. Hammell wrongly claimed VAR did not look at the incident, when in fact, they scrutinised it before the goal was confirmed.
See below. The ball is in play the instant any part of it goes above the line. What you have to consider is, where is the ball when it hits Haksabanovic on the head?
Penney is well behind the line, Haksabanovic’s foot looks to be on the line, a football is 22cm. The image is inconclusive. Motherwell may have a case for a good moan, but even though we don’t know for sure what happened on this occasion, VAR was correct, it is only there to change clear mistakes, which this was not.
The challenge on Carl Starfelt by Josh Morris was studs up, caught the Celtic player on the foot (by definition, therefore, out of control) and dangerous. Carl saw it coming and escaped more serious consequences.
There were mitigating circumstances. Carl hesitated, inviting Morris into the challenge, so there was no intent. I suspect that mitigation and the fact that Carl escaped injury led referee Willie Collum to caution the player. We then revert to VAR’s role as an arbiter of a clear mistake. On this occasion, they decided that threshold was not breached. The referee should have awarded a red card first, or waited on guidance from VAR, before issuing a caution.
VAR takes the heat on this one, but it was a ref decision. You may also like to consider an incident at Ibrox last month, when VAR upgraded a caution issued to a Livingston player, advising the referee a red was in order. Personally, I’m happy for VAR to adjudicate either way on these decisions but would really prefer the same interpretation applied to teams in green and white, as to teams in blue.
For my money, the Jota goal was onside. From what we saw on TV, VAR was provided inconclusive evidence. Is it possible they do not have a camera at both ends of the ground? Otherwise, why show us inconclusive pictures from 60 yards away?
My understanding is that VAR have access to their own cameras and to TV (the game was on PPV) at both sides of the ground. I’m a tad suspicious we didn’t see the better freeze-frame. The assistant flagged an offside and we have no clear evidence either way, so I have no case to argue.
I’m happy we have VAR, it provides scrutiny, which is welcome. This has already made clear that we need better ‘trained’ referees. Vilifying them at every turn (I get the irony here) will not help. We also need better VAR. Scotland has an entry level product. England has better, the Champions League has best. Football must find the money and press on.
My main concern for the technology is how ball-to-arm incidents are judged when we visit Ibrox on 2 January. The portents on this one are not encouraging.
Matt O’Riley continues to grow as a player. His ball-winning tackle inside the box before crossing for Kyogo to open the scoring was a measured treat.