Perfect Day for Celtic as Hoops Widen Gap

Well that was a quiet afternoon wasn’t it! I had a feeling in my gut that VAR was going to be the headline story today and so it transpired, although nothing should be taken away from what was an extremely exciting match at Tynecastle, one that proves Scottish football has a lot more to offer than people give it credit for.

Before I go on however let’s talk about the elephant in the room, VAR. What I witnessed today was exactly what I, and most other Celtic fans, have predicted ever since it entered football a few years ago. That all the technology in the world won’t change the fact that the officials in Scottish football are totally inept and can’t be trusted to use it correctly. Today however proved another point most Celtic fans have been stating for years. It’s not just the referees ineptitude on show, but also their clear bias against Celtic, which is there for all to see.

An incident happened in the first half where Nick Walsh wrongly blew the whistle just as Anthony Ralston scored a wonderful diving header, claiming Giorgos Giakoumakis had committed a foul. He should just have let play commence whether he thought it was a foul or not but weirdly the VAR officials still checked it regardless of his error. The goal should have stood as the Giakoumakis ‘foul’ was an absolute nothing incident but Steven McLean on VAR duties obviously protected his mate who shouldn’t have blown his whistle when he did by agreeing with Walsh’s decision. The referee didn’t go over to the screen to check.

Referee Nick Walsh signals a penalty to Hearts after consulting var during the cinch Premiership match at Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh. Picture Neil Hanna / Sportimage

In the Cameron Carter-Vickers incident for the Hearts penalty a while later, play went on like it should until the VAR officials let referee Nick Walsh know they were looking at the incident. After a discussion on his headset, Walsh went over and watched the replay and was quick to give the penalty. It was undoubtedly soft but you do see them given in this era of VAR where the smallest of infringements get penalised.

The thing is minutes later Celtic appealed for what looked like a stone well penalty when Smith clearly stopped a cross with his arm. You could see he knew it was a penalty as did his teammate closest to the incident. VAR was checked an inexplicably no penalty was awarded. The most ridiculous part of this is that on the two big calls that went against Celtic, Walsh was more than happy to listen to McLean’s opinion with no need to check the monitor for himself yet he had no problem checking it to award Hearts their first penalty.

Referee Nick Walsh awards a penalty to Hearts after checking with VAR during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Hearts and Celtic at Tynecastle on 22 October 2022. Photo Malcolm Mackenzie PSI

I have never liked VAR from the start. I hate the fact it effects the flow of the game and I hate that when someone scores instead of unbridled joy, players and fans are constantly looking for the referee to make sure the goal stands. Would I have loved it to be around when Thierry Henry screwed Ireland out of the World Cup in 2009? Of course I would have. But in general I think it’s implementation has been detrimental to the game of football, and I worry that in Scottish football it will be detrimental to Celtic.

Some will say I’m paranoid or a conspiracy theorist but today proved that we should all be worried. It clearly showed that referees in this country will dismiss Celtic’s claims yet go through footage with a fine tooth comb if there is the possibility of punishing Celtic. I doubt this will be the last time I’ll be discussing VAR this season. But for now let’s leave it there.

Today’s game was a see-saw battle which saw both teams have the lead at stages but Celtic showed that champion mentality by edging the contest in the end and leave the home team, who had gave everything in the contest, heartbroken (pardon the pun).

Today’s game winner was substitute Greg Taylor, with the left back showing great determination by getting to the back post in time to meet Liel Abada’s cross and poke the ball over the goal line. Taylor has been absolutely incredible for Celtic this season and his progression under Ange Postecoglou has been breathtaking. He has went from a player that a lot of the Celtic support didn’t rate to one who surely has to be in the running for player of the year. I genuinely don’t think that is an exaggeration, he has been exceptional this season.

Daizen Maeda left celebrates with Celtic s Reo Hatate after Celtic’s third goal of the game during the cinch Premiership match at Tynecastle on Saturday October 22, 2022. Photo Jane Barlow

I have also been impressed with Arron Mooy recently, another one that a lot of Celtic fans weren’t convinced by when we signed him, myself included. It’s clear he lacks speed but what he lacks in that department he makes up for in his reading of the game. He also isn’t scared to get stuck in and get his hands dirty which is extra important at the moment with Callum McGregor sidelined. He’s also got a lovely range of passing but after today’s missed sitter maybe Ange should be send him for a bit of shooting practice at some stage next week, it really was a shocker.

 Greg Taylor celebrates scoring Celtic’s fourth goal of the game during the cinch Premiership match at Tynecastle Park, Saturday October 22, 2022. Photo Jane Barlow

Today’s win became even more important when our title rivals surprisingly dropped points at home to Livingston, who usually keep their best performances for when they play Celtic. Gio Van Bronkhorst’s side are struggling at the moment and today’s result and performance should definitely show the other Scottish teams that they are there for the taking at the moment.

Things could have been a lot worse for them today, with only a stoppage time goal saving them from an embarrassing home defeat. I said earlier I wasn’t going to mention VAR again but at 1-0 down the officials used the technology to change what was initially a yellow card to a red, hence handing them a route back into a game they never looked like getting back in to. It will be interesting to see how often this new technology benefits them.

Unfortunately for them it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than the referees help to keep them on Celtic’s coattails this season. They honestly look awful this season and if Celtic keep winning I think it won’t be long until they start losing faith. Their fans are already turning on the manager and the boos at the end of today’s match indicate they are losing patience with the players as well.

Today Celtic showed once again that the ‘we never stop’ mentality is more than just a saying. They really don’t know when they are beaten. That bodes well for the rest of the season.

Conall McGinty

About Author

Hailing from Cushendall in the North of Ireland my formative years were spent watching Celtic during our barren spell through the 90's which meant I have appreciated our recent trophy-laden spell even more. Favourite matches home and away I've attended has to be beating Man Utd 1-0 at Celtic Park and being with my 2 brothers watching us beat Lazio 2-1 in Rome. Best away day experience? Has to be Munich with friends from Coatbridge...what a few days!

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