"Appalling" refereeing overshadows Celtic game

Posted by Andy Muirhead

Kris Commons celeb CelticPA PhotosKris Commons opened the scoring for Celtic but they were pegged back

With everyone focusing on the team selection before kick-off no one predicted just how much the referee would influence Sunday's proceedings at St Mirren Park as Celtic drew 1-1 with St Mirren.

You can forgive players for taking their eye off the ball now and again, but can a referee, in this particular case Bobby Madden, whose one job it is to officiate proceedings - helped by two linesmen - be forgiven? The ref doesn't have the benefit of TV replays like the fans and pundits do, but in the grand scheme of things, Madden, for a better word screwed both teams over on Sunday with FOUR abysmal decisions.

- McGowan denies ten-man Celtic
- Lennon irate with referee

Celtic's players had lined up prior to kick off to show respect and to congratulate St Mirren on winning the Scottish League Cup some two weeks ago, their first major piece of silverware since 1987.

That sign of respect looked to have been laid to rest within six minutes as Kris Commons headed home an Efe Ambrose cross to give Celtic an early lead.

But after that early goal, Celtic brought back that pre-match respect as they gave their hosts too much time on the ball, allowed them to camp in the Hoops' half and threaten on several occasions. In fact, at times, it looked as though Celtic were the side sitting second from bottom and that the Buddies were sitting pretty at the top of the SPL.

I mentioned in a previous article that Celtic do not bully teams anymore and this game continued to prove my point. Despite being a goal to the good at half time, St Mirren had been the better of the two sides.

The first half saw very few chances on goal, but the first two major talking points took place within the first 45 minutes, which caused much derision from the St Mirren players, manager and fans alike towards the referee.

The first saw Craig Dummet clatter into Celtic keeper Fraser Forster, before the ball ended up in the back of the net. The referee blew for a foul, when replays showed that Celtic's Emilio Izaguirre had nudged Dummet into Forster. You could possibly forgive the referee for not awarding the goal on this one - but surely the linesmen, or assistant referees as we are supposed to call them now, should have spotted it.

The second talking point came on the stroke of half time and it was a biggy. Georgios Samaras clearly handled the ball inside the Celtic box after Efe Ambrose had nodded it back towards the Greek. There were huge protests from the St Mirren players, management team and fans, who clearly saw it as a penalty. But Madden did not award the spot kick and blew for half time seconds later.

Some St Mirren players seemed to protest far too much, which resulted in striker Steven Thompson being booked while in the changing rooms during the interval.

Into the second half and again the game was bereft of chances as the referee once more took centre-stage in proceedings when he sent off Victor Wanyama on 55 minutes. The Kenyan had fouled Paul McGowan as he went to challenge the former Celtic youngster for the ball. Wanyama missed the ball and caught McGowan on the shin, resulting in the diminutive Buddie crumpling to the ground. Without hesitation Madden raced over to the Kenyan and produced a red card, much to the amazement of the Celtic players, management staff and the away fans. Again replays showed that while it was a foul, it warranted nothing more than a yellow card at best.

So with Celtic having to play with ten men for half an hour, it was inevitable that St Mirren would press forward looking for an equaliser and they were handed their chance ten minutes before full time - in fact Madden gift wrapped it and handed the chance on a gold plate for the Buddies as he awarded a penalty to the home side.

With the score still 1-0 to Celtic with ten minutes remaining; Madden blew for a foul on Goncalves that took place just outside the box. However, Madden, awarded a penalty which Paul McGown duly despatched from the spot. But once again Madden got the big decision wrong, not only did the foul took place outside the box, which would result in nothing more than a free-kick, there was also no contact made by Izaguirre on Goncalves and therefore the St Mirren striker should have been booked for diving.

And that is how the game ended, 1-1, in what was honestly a pretty drab affair from Celtic's perspective. They also saw Kris Commons carried off injured with what looked like a serious ankle injury.

After the match Neil Lennon labelled Madden's penalty performance "by far the most appalling refereeing decision by a long, long way". Those comments won't sit nicely with the suits at Hampden, but with a suspended sentence from a previous Scottish FA punishment hanging over his head, Lennon felt that Madden's performance needed to be commented on, and rightly so in my eyes.

And it begs the question; will the Scottish FA take Madden to task over his performance or lack thereof? If players and managers can be held accountable for wrong decisions and their comments, then what gives the referee the right to be unaccountable to anyone? But we can safely bet our mortgage on the answer to that question being in the negative.

Two seasons ago, our referees went on strike and Scottish football saw whistlers from Europe descend on our nation to officiate games - that weekend proved that our referees are some of the worst in the country as Israeli, Maltese and Luxembourg referees showed them up. Sunday's performance by Madden is possibly the worst in a decade or more in the Scottish top flight.

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