Parkhead penalty first
In the midst of the myriad controversies and stoppages, the significance of the disputed spot-kick that allowed Celtic to draw level against a 10-man Hibs was understandably missed. Focus centred on whether the Scottish champions enjoyed a break from referee Steven McLean in him adjudging Paul Hanlon manhandled Cameron Carter-Vickers in the box seven minutes after the interval. It was borderline, but the call made for a never-before-seen-moment for the home side in a Premiership game this season.
This was a consequence of the penalty, subsequently converted by Jota, proving the first for Ange Postecoglou’s side at home in the Premiership this season. Ahead of the weekend, they were only one of two teams - 11th-placed Ross County the other - that hadn’t been awarded one in their own patch. Giving way to two late goals for Celtic, the eventual 3-1 scoreline made for a 15th straight home league win for the league leaders. Only once before in their history have they boasted a faultless record on this measure so deep into a top flight campaign - Martin O’Neill’s team winning their first 18 home league games in 2001-02.
In (slight) defence of McLean/VAR
Set against the howlers from Scotland’s officialdom elsewhere on Saturday - in particular the inexplicable penalty given against Dundee United at Tannadice and the equally inexplicable failure to award a spot-kick for St Johnstone’s Andy Considine handling the ball at Kilmarnock - Steven McLean and his VAR operative Gavin Duncan weren’t as flawed in their decision-making as initially appeared.
It might appear contradictory to also acknowledge that it was understandable for Hibs manager Lee Johnson to rail against McLean’s performance. Of course, it could be argued Elie Youan ill-deserved a second yellow card in the 25th minute for his inadvertent kick to the face of Cameron Carter-Vickers. Especially when it followed the defender climbing all over him to knock the attacker off balance before he copped a boot in the face as his head was then practically waist height. However, the rules state that a player “must” be cautioned if he is “reckless”. Deemed as acting with “disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, an opponent”. In this narrow definition, a case could be made for McLean’s brandishing of a yellow.
It was to his credit that Johnson refused to be one-eyed in his assessment of the penalties for each side across the afternoon. A VAR spot accounted for Hibs’ 39th minute award, with Carl Starfelt having a tame grip of Paul Hanlon’s shirt at a throw-in. The Hibs manager felt the contact then, and with Celtic’s award, wasn’t of a threshold to warrant punishment. He insisted if both were spot-kicks there would be “100 penalties every matchday”. That is one evaluation. Another is that it is far from uncommon to see penalties given for such incidents. McLean and VAR official Duncan applied the rules harshly, but not daftly.
Green Brigade and politics mix for punters
The Green Brigade are often misguided in setting themselves up as the moral/political epicentre of the Celtic support. Occasionally, though, they do speak to the wider feelings of the followers of a club that was formed by immigrants. The case at the weekend with their banner display that proclaimed ‘refugees welcome, stop the Tories’. A protest in response to the government’s small boats legislation, and language around it - the source of the Gary Lineker affair, as might be termed that agenda-dominating chain of events - its unfurling at Celtic Park led to all corners of the stadium clapping furiously and roaring with approval.