What Lee Johnson had to say about Hibs display against Celtic, Élie Youan red card, penalty calls, and referee performance

Hibs manager Lee Johnson declared himself proud of the effort put in by his players in the 3-1 defeat by Celtic – but branded referee Steven McLean’s performance ‘really poor’.
Lee Johnson gestures from the technical area during Hibs' 3-1 defeat by CelticLee Johnson gestures from the technical area during Hibs' 3-1 defeat by Celtic
Lee Johnson gestures from the technical area during Hibs' 3-1 defeat by Celtic

The official sent off Easter Road forward Élie Youan for two bookable offences, and awarded two VAR-assisted penalties, one for each side, and also changed his mind over a second spot-kick award for the hosts after watching it back.

Speaking afterwards, the Hibs boss said ‘fingers should be pointed’ at the whistler’s display, insisting he had been wrong to send off the Frenchman for a ‘reckless challenge’ on Hoops defender Cameron Carter-Vickers.

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"I was really proud of the players, it's as difficult a game as you'll get. We were outstanding in both halves given the circumstances – you have to point the finger at the referee's performance. How on earth can it be a sending-off for Élie Youan? I thought it was a foul against Élie. He has his back to goal, doesn't know where Carter-Vickers is, and he's been outmuscled. Maybe a foul, maybe not. It's definitely not a yellow card and this is the problem with VAR, it has to be clear and obvious. It was just a really poor performance. It bugs me.

"The referee made the call for the red card, from what he told me. He said it was a reckless challenge. It was hardly a reckless challenge. Élie’s got his back to goal, he's pinned him early, and he's off-balance. There's contact with the foot, the ball, and the head. Carter-Vickers is much closer to the ground. He's obviously down low, what is Élie expected to do? He's not gone up with his studs out and kicked him.

"I'm a bit of a lobbyist, I think the league should be employing professional referees. It's a big European league. It's important, there's a lot of money at stake, there’s European places at stake – there could be five clubs in Europe next season.”

Johnson also cast doubt on both penalties; Hibs’ award given after Carl Starfelt was penalised for tugging Paul Hanlon’s shirt at a corner and Celtic’s for similar.

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"I'm not sure either penalty should have been given, because if that's the case I want to see a penalty given almost every box entry. [The referee] was very keen to look for any contact and that's got to be consistent throughout the league. You'd be giving 100 penalties every match day if both of those penalties were penalties.”

Johnson also insisted he didn’t want to detract from his team’s performance, adding: “We worked all week on defending, we played 15 against ten, they had to marshal those penetrative runs that Celtic are so good at, and I think Celtic are a fantastic side.

"I enjoyed the coaching week leading up to it as we tried to mitigate their strengths and try to impose our strengths on their weaknesses, which at times we did but it was made very difficult by a poor refereeing decision. The referees will read the papers and whisper to their wives and partners about what I am and what I'm not. I don't think the lads deserve what happened to them today but I will take a lot from the character and spirit that we're building now in the club."

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