Hearts bemoan defending as Ange Postecoglou complains Celtic haven't had a penalty all year

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was left frustrated by his team’s defending after a controversial 4-3 defeat by Celtic at Tynecastle.
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In a game which ebbed and flowed amid several VAR decisions, the Premiership champions finished victorious thanks to goals by James Forrest, Georgios Giakoumakis, Daizen Maeda and Greg Taylor. Lawrence Shankland claimed a hat-trick including two penalties for Hearts, but they ended the afternoon with nothing.

“We scored three goals and had other opportunities but ended up taking nothing from the game,” said Neilson. “Everyone will say: ‘Well done, pat on the back.’ Ultimately, we didn’t take anything. We scored three but the goals we lost were not great goals to lose.

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“The first one, a deflection flicks the ball up. Then there is a free header at a corner, then there are two rebounds we should be reacting to a lot quicker.”

Asked about VAR, he replied: “There is a lot of ironing out to do. The novelty of it today kept everyone onside but if we have that in a month’s time, three months’ time or six months’ time, it’s going to become more of a hindrance than a good.

“There were discrepancies in either half. The first penalty isn’t given and goes to VAR. The second one does get given. My worry is it takes the strength to make a decision away from the referee.

“I think everyone in the stadium can see the first one is a penalty. Referees are getting used to it as well. Was Nick [Walsh, the referee] waiting for VAR to confirm it to him? For me, it’s an absolutely clear-cut stone-waller. It should have been given. We shouldn’t need to wait two, three, four, five, six minutes to get that decision. Hopefully it gets ironed out. My understanding was that he was unsure [over the first penalty]. I don’t know what that means.”

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Neilson is confident Stephen Humphrys and Josh Ginnelly will be fit for Thursday’s Europa Conference League tie against Latvian champions RFS despite both going off injured.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson with Celtic's Ange Postecoglou in the background.Hearts manager Robbie Neilson with Celtic's Ange Postecoglou in the background.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson with Celtic's Ange Postecoglou in the background.

“We’ve got to take that performance into every week,” said the manager. “We have a massive game on Thursday against Riga and if we can take that performances, that energy, that intensity into the game then we can win the game. Then we have to get ourselves going in the league again. Stephen was a knock on the foot, Josh was just a tight hamstring, just cramp. I think they will be fine.”

The Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou felt VAR should have awarded his team a penalty late in the first half when the ball struck Michael Smith’s arm. “I thought we had a clear-cut handball and penalty but apparently that's not good enough. What do I know?” he commented. “We haven't had a penalty all year and I keep hearing opposition managers saying we get everything. The only penalties we have taken so far this season have been in training.

“It is the whole theatre around it all. People assume that everything is going to be clear-cut and I look forward to fellow managers accepting the fact that VAR is not going to be clear-cut. That’s the problem with it. People think it is going to clear everything up. It won't.”