O’Riley hears referee Don Robertson’s Hampden Confession

Celtic star Matt O’Riley has revealed what stand-in referee Don Robertson told him after Jota scored the only goal of Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final against theRangers and also argued strongly against the notion that the Final on Saturday 3 June against Championship side Inverness Caley Thistle is going to be something of a walk-over for the Treble chasing Hoops.

“That’s not fair,” Matt O’Riley said, as reported by The Herald. “Inverness can get promoted as well and the bottom of the top league and the top of the second league are probably very similar and we have shown before that we haven’t always necessarily won against teams at the bottom.

“So, I don’t think it is fair to get into the frame of mind thinking that we have already won that game. It is a cup final and Inverness are going to be up for it so we will need to be as well.

“Everyone expected us to win against Motherwell, and we had good chances but couldn’t score and that could happen in the cup final as well. We will do our best but Inverness still have a chance,” O’Riley explained.

After a short period where he was mostly used as a substitute O’Riley’s recent good form had him as everyone’s banker to start at the weekend and so it turned out with him joining Callum McGregor and the returning from injury Reo Hatate in the Celtic engine-room. That left Aaron Mooy, Tomoki Iwata and David Turnbull on the bench – and the trio would be as good as anything else in the Scottish football, outside the three who started for Celtic at Hampden.

And that’s probably why getting a start in the Celtic midfield these days is such a difficult task with the captain Callum McGregor always playing unless injured there’s two places open for five top quality candidates.

O’Riley was outstanding in the early part of the season, being particularly impressive in the period from Callum McGregor picking up his injury in Leipzig in the Champions League to the break for the World Cup. Ahead of Iwata arriving in the January transfer window, it was Matt O’Riley who stepped back to that holding number 6 role that the captain plays so well and the Denmark U21 international handled the challenge magnificently.

These days with Calmac back it’s back to playing in the slightly more advanced role and at the weekend it was his forward thinking that somewhat bizarrely resulted in the goal that tool Celtic through to the final against Inverness Caley Thistle.

Celtic supporters for as long as we can all remember share the view that the Scottish referees favour whatever Ibrox club is around at any given moment in time. So it was a surprise to no-one in the Celtic end of Hampden or those watching on television when O’Riley’s progress was stopped by Nicolas Raskin with a blatant bodycheck at the edge of the box and the stand-in referee Don Robertson decided against awarding Celtic a free-kick, for reasons only he really knows.

It was so blatant that around seven of theRangers players stopped but right from his first training session as Celtic manager, Ange Postecoglou has been drumming into his players one simple message that is their mantra. WE NEVER STOP and this much to the amusement of theRangers support at the time.

“Oh how they mocked and laughed. They’ll not be laughing tonight,” Celtic Wiki pointed out on social media on Sunday evening.

And, unfortunately for those dozy diddies in theRangers backline, there’s one man in this Celtic side who simply doesn’t know how to stop and that is Daizen Maeda. His reaction to reach the ball in that split second when theRangers stood still, some with their hands in the air in the surrendering position, won the game for Celtic.

He still had work to do. His cross was perfect, as was Jota’s movement to get ahead of theRangers captain and the header that finished the move was class. Celtic were ahead in the semi-final and that turned out to be that as far as the goalscoring at Hampden was concerned.

But what then happened next as Matt O’Riley spoke to Don, who was left with Robertson’s jam on his face.

“It was definitely a foul. I was appealing for it and the ref told me it probably was a foul when I walked past him but he said: ‘If I’d given the foul then you guys wouldn’t have scored’ and I was like: ‘Yeah, fair enough!’ Matt O’Riley

READ THIS…Don, you have Robertson’s jam all over your face

Matt O’Riley revealed what happened next. “It was definitely a foul. I was appealing for it and the ref told me it probably was a foul when I walked past him but he said: ‘If I’d given the foul then you guys wouldn’t have scored’ and I was like: ‘Yeah, fair enough!’

“It was a really good goal as well. We wouldn’t usually cross from that kind of area, we would usually try to work it a bit closer, but Daizen saw the opportunity and it was a great ball for the goal.”

In the recent Glasgow Derby at Celtic Park Michael Beale complained that Jota wasn’t punished for an imaginary handball that only him and his captain saw. Later he admitted that he was wrong but stood by his other complaint that the push by Morelos on Alistair Johnston didn’t merit a foul.  This time Beale decided against calling out the refereeing error that put his side out of the Cup and ended their season trophyless.

Karma levels are off the scale with this one. Brilliant, just brilliant.

 Billy McKay of Inverness Caledonian Thistle celebrates with team mates after scoring their sides first goal from the penalty spot during the Scottish Cup Semi Final between Falkirk and Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Hampden Park on April 29, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

On Matt O’Riley opening remarked, he is quite right what he says about Inverness. I watched them in their second leg play-off final against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park and although Saints ran out comfortable winners at the time, their goals came in the second half when the Inverness legs went – they had loads of games to get through the Championship play-off rounds to reach the final against the Premiership’s second bottom side and that eventually told.

This year Inverness are set to have this play-off rounds all over again and could even have the final just after the Scottish Cup final. That is going to be a clear disadvantage to the Highlanders.

In terms of levels they were very similar to St Johnstone, who were a poor side last season.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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