'Officials don't even know the rules': Robbie Neilson blasts VAR 'shambles' as Hearts boss explains celebration after Livingston draw
Robbie Neilson launched a frustrated attack on the “shambles” of VAR after seeing his ten-man Hearts side fight back to claim a dramatic late point against Livingston.
Josh Ginnelly rifled in a finish seven minutes into stoppage time to tie the game up at 1-1 after Stephen Kelly had shot Livingston into an early second-half lead.
Yet again VAR was at the centre of things. The new technology intervened to award Livingston a penalty after Kye Rowles was seen to have pulled on the shirt of Joel Nouble. Sean Kelly stepped up but his effort was saved by the legs of Craig Gordon.
Furthermore, it caused lengthy delays throughout the game, including a stop for a check on whether Alex Cochrane had committed a red card offence when challenging Nicky Devlin. Even the winning goal had tempered celebrations as some thought it might be pulled back for a potential foul by Toby Sibbick on Nouble before Hearts broke up field to equalise.
Neilson believes the technology is currently “killing football” and questioned whether the officials fully understand the rules.
“It was a shambles, wasn't it?” asked Neilson rhetorically. “We've got this period now where hopefully it gets better. We don't need three or four minutes to check every single decision. It needs to be done a lot quicker. Anyone can watch a video and within three replays make a decision. Then it gets fired back. But we're stopping the game for everything. It's got to get better because that's going to kill football.
“I asked the fourth official the rules on it and he didn't know. Rowles pulls him back, 100 per cent. But then he goes on and gets a shot away. Are you denying a goalscoring opportunity? You've still got a goalscoring opportunity.
“If the officials don't even know what chances have we got? I watch the English game and they check decisions, but they continue to play the game while they're checking and then they'll tell the referee. We're stopping everything and it's literally killing the game.”
After Ginnelly’s equaliser the Hearts boss raced out on to the pitch and pumped his hands in the direction of the main stand in a showing of unbridled emotion.
“It was out of pure frustration after what a shambles of a day it became,” explained Neilson. “We've got a VAR check on Alex Cochrane for a potential red card and it takes four minutes to get it done. God knows how many times he needs to watch it. Then when it's done we get the throw in. Surely if you're stopping it for that time it has to be a foul first and foremost. You'd be as well getting the ref in – though he'll probably no know either.”
It’s the second time in as many weeks that Hearts have got a positive result at Tynecastle despite being reduced to ten men before scoring.
“The players have shown that spirit, that togetherness to keep going, to keep fighting,” said Neilson. “They feel that if we get a chance then we're going to score a goal.
“Davie will be disappointed but I felt we at least deserved a point out of the game. We started it really well, created a lot of chances but that final moment wasn't quite there.”