CAMERON CARTER-VICKERS was involved in a pivotal moment that pushed Celtic towards their first league defeat at Parkhead to end a superb 51-game sequence.

The rugged centre-back was penalised by referee Kevin Clancy for a challenge on Nat Atkinson that saw Hearts awarded a direct free-kick in a dangerous area, a decision queried by CQN yesterday.

With the visitors already leading 1-0 through a Lawrence Shankland close-range header after some slipshod defending, Stephen Kingsley swept a left-foot drive wide of Joe Hart’s clawing fingers to double the Tynecastle outfit’s advantage.

SOLID CHALLENGE…Cameron Carter-Vickers wins the ball as Nat Atkinson slides in, but, amazingly, referee Kevin Clancy awards Hearts a free-kick from which the visitors score their second goal.

On an afternoon to forget in the east end of Glasgow, the champions failed to respond and lost their second consecutive Premiership match for the first time in a decade after the nosedive at Rugby Park the previous week during another astonishingly inept performance.

Reflecting on the latest setback, Carter-Vickers offered no excuses and said: “We weren’t good enough. We conceded two sloppy goals, which is something we need to look at in training and try to improve on.

“We probably should have created more and also finished the chances we did have to try to get ourselves back in the game. Ultimately, it wasn’t good enough.

“For large parts of the second-half, we did have them in their half, around their box. But, again, there were sloppy moments throughout the half which killed our momentum.

“When we did get in and around the box, we weren’t good enough in the final third to create clear openings to score goals. Again, that’s something we need to look at and try to improve on.”

HEY, REF…Cameron Carter-Vickers clearly disagrees with the match official’s decision.

On the dodgy set-play award to Steven Naismith’s team, the USA World Cup centre-back, speaking to the Daily Record, insisted: “I didn’t think it was a free-kick.

“I planted my foot on the floor and he [Atkinson] was already slipping. He kind of skipped into my leg which was planted and the referee gave a free-kick.”

Carter-Vickers added: “Over the 90 minutes, we probably didn’t do enough to deserve to win the game. We’ve got to look at it and try to improve.

”We have to analyse what went wrong, see where we can improve as a team and as individuals. If we do that, performances will get better.

“Emotions are obviously high when you lose a game. But, as a group, we’ve got to get our heads down now, work hard on the training pitch and try to start turning out better performances.

ON THE BALL…Cameron Carter-Vickers in action in the scoreless stalemate against Hibs at Easter Road in October.

“Win, lose or draw we always know the next game is the most important one and, as a group, that’s what we try to focus on. Every game of football is different.”

Livingston are next up on Saturday to test the resolve of Brendan Rodgers’ stuttering side who urgently require a quick fix to stabilise before the Boxing Day trip to Dens Park to face Dundee.

The curtain comes down on an eventful 2023 with the second derby of the campaign at Parkhead on December 30 when Rodgers and his players are afforded the perfect opportunity to defuse rampant optimism across the city by repeating their victorious feat in Govan back in September when Kyogo Furuhashi had the final say.


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