“Watching it again I think he moves his arm up to the ball,” Shelley Kerr

Ex-Celt Chris Sutton and the former Hearts player Michael Stewart adopted contrasting opinions on the biggest controverial incident to go against Celtic at Tynecastle yesterday in a match that Celtic still managed to win 4-3 despite the best efforts of Nic Walsh and his VAR colleague Steven McLean, both of whom have strong associations with the club that they both support.

Sutton reckoned that Celtic were denied a stonewall penalty just minutes after VAR had given one to Hearts. “I think a lot of Celtic fans would have issue with the incident just before half-time. It was James Forrest and Michael Smith,” the former Celtic striker told BBC Radio 606.

“Steven McLean was the (VAR) referee. It looked like a penalty, and most people would say Michael Smith moved his hand towards the ball.

“Why did it take so long for the award of the Hearts penalty, where most people would says in real-time that it should have been a penalty?

“Then it took such a short space of time to rule out the Celtic one, when that looked an absolute stonewaller?” Sutton argued.

Also on the BBC, this time on Sportscene, Michael Stewart made the couter argument. “Nick Walsh is in the perfect position and I think they came to the right decision. They are very quick with this one, but where is his arm meant to be?

“It’s not a case of not hitting the ball, his arm is in a completely natural position. I can understand why some people see it as a penalty as his arms are swinging.

“The rules are if it is a deliberate handball, and it’s not deliberate, or if he is making his body bigger that is not part of a natural movement.”

Fellow Sportscene pundit Shelley Kerr disagreed: “That is still interpretation. When I watched it right away I thought it was going to be a penalty, and the reason why is watching it again I think he moves his arm up to the ball. I am not saying it’s intentional. I think you see a motion towards the ball.”

Stewart responded to that saying: “Handball is a big one for me. There is a big problem where you get punished as a defender for things that are not deliberate.

“They have change the handball law that it no longer means unnaturally big, it’s all about the movement of the body. Anything Michael Smith has done there is a completely normal action.”

It’s hard to imagine how Stewart can look at this incident and argue that it’s not a clear penalty. We are of course biased as Celtic supporters but watching for instance the Hearts first penalty it was a much more marginal decision and by using the technology the correct decision was reached.

In this handball incident it clearly was not used to it’s full effect, with the referee being asked to review it for himself before making his call. Instead that was done for him in just a few seconds by Steven McLean, who should be removed from the process forthwith and at Celtic’s insistence.

Over to you Michael Nicholson.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who 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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