Hearts 3-4 Celtic: VAR is talk o' the toon during a controversial seven-goal thriller Tynecastle

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VAR was the talk o’ the toon in Edinburgh as Hearts and Celtic played out a dramatic seven-goal thriller. The new officiating system introduced to Scottish football this weekend threw up talking points and controversy galore during an entertaining afternoon at Tynecastle Park.

James Forrest, Georgios Giakoumakis, Daizen Maeda and Greg Taylor scored for the visitors, with Lawrence Shankland claiming a hat-trick including two penalties for Hearts. VAR intervened several times during the 90 minutes as referee Nick Walsh listened to advice in his earpiece from those afar studying replays.

Hearts’ first and third goals arrived after such reviews, while Celtic had two efforts disallowed and a penalty appeal rejected by VAR. The result was the kind of chaotic fixture that makes for compelling viewing inside an atmospheric Tynecastle. The Premiership champions ultimately left with all three points, but their hosts contributed an enormous amount to the game and will feel rightly aggrieved at taking nothing from it.

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Celtic scored ten goals in their previous two matches but made six changes for this trip to the Capital. Hearts settled for three, leaving Shankland on the substitutes’ bench. Relentless rain rendered the Tynecastle surface slippy and inviting for those who like a challenge, such as Cammy Devlin in the hosts’ midfield.

Hearts' Lawrence Shankland scores to make it 2-1 against Celtic.Hearts' Lawrence Shankland scores to make it 2-1 against Celtic.
Hearts' Lawrence Shankland scores to make it 2-1 against Celtic.

The visiting goalkeeper Joe Hart smothered attempts by Barrie McKay and Robert Snodgrass before Celtic opened the scoring after 15 minutes. Orestis Kiomourtzoglou jabbed out a foot to block Anthony Ralston’s low cross from the byline but the ball spun up and over keeper Craig Gordon’s dive for Forrest to nod into an empty net.

VAR intervened moments later after Celtic had the ball in the net again, resulting in some confusion as referee Walsh had blown for a foul by Giakoumakis on Kiomourtzoglou. Aaron Mooy and Reo Hatate were finding space in advanced midfield roles and at times their movement flummoxed those in maroon.

Devlin continued influencing the central area using tenacious tackles interspersed with some intelligent passing as his side tried to force the issue. He was a major catalyst in the equaliser after striker Stephen Humphrys departed through injury.

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The Australian seized on a loose ball inside the Celtic penalty area and, as his toe reached the ball first, he was clattered by Cameron Carter-Vickers. Walsh visited a touchline monitor to review footage before correctly awarding a penalty and prompting home fans to erupt. Shankland – Humphrys’ replacement – drove the ball home.

Seconds from the break, another controversial moment. Forrest’s attempted pass struck the Hearts defender Michael Smith on the arm but a VAR review concluded there was no infringement. Ange Postecoglou laughed in disagreement but there was more concern for the Celtic manager as the second half began in frenetic fashion.

Hearts took a 2-1 lead on 47 minutes when Josh Ginnelly’s low cross was prodded home by Shankland from close range. The advantage lasted eight minutes until Giakoumakis rose unchallenged to glance Mooy’s corner into the bottom corner. Mooy had missed a Grade A sitter minutes previously so would have been relieved with that assist.

He was heavily involved in Celtic’s third soon after. Gordon couldn’t hold the midfielder’s 22-yard shot and Maeda reacted quickest to plunder a goal from the rebound and put his team 3-2 up. If that wasn't enough drama, Hearts levelled again on 62 minutes in bizarre circumstances.

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Devlin was impeded again inside the area – this time by Moritz Jenz – from another Ginnelly cross and Walsh awarded a penalty. Hart stopped Shankland’s effort and Ginnelly bundled home the loose ball, but VAR ordered a retake. This time Shankland made no mistake with a low and accurate conversion.

However, Celtic weren’t finished. They regained the lead through substitute Taylor 14 minutes from the end. Fellow replacement Liel Abada cut inside from the right and dispatched a left-footed effort which deflected into Taylor’s path. The Scotland defender completed a straightforward finish at the back post.

That was sufficient to win the game for the Glasgow club. Abada found the net in stoppage time only for VAR to confirm what was an obvious offside against the Israeli. Hearts, yet again, were left with nothing but exasperation at full-time as Celtic celebrated their victory.

Hearts (4-1-4-1): Gordon; M Smith (Halliday 84), Sibbick, Kingsley, Cochrane; Kioourtzoglou (C Smith 84); Ginnelly (Forrest 70), Devlin, Snodgrass, McKay; Humphrys (Shankland 39).

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Celtic (4-3-3): Hart; Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Jenz, Bernabei (Taylor 66); Mooy, O’Riley, Hatate (Abildgaard 90); Forrest (Abada 66), Giakoumakis, Maeda (Haksabanovic 66).

Referee: Nick Walsh.

Attendance: 18,081.