Ange Doesn’t Miss When it Comes to VAR, as Abada and Mooy Inspire Paisley Comeback

Much of the build up to Sunday’s game in Paisley was centred around this being Celtic’s return to the only ground where they have lost a domestic fixture this season. Would lighting strike twice, or would Celtic banish last September’s game to history?

The omens did not look good early on in Paisley.  Not only were the Hoops hoopless, turning out in the infamous all grey top last worn in the defeat to St Mirren at the start of the season, but they were also up against some hopeless refereeing, or more to the point, hopeless implementation of VAR.

VAR has become an unwanted talking point during and after most games this season and it did not take long for another contentious decision to take place on Sunday.

Two minutes into the game, St Mirren forward Alex Grieve flicked the ball up inside the Celtic penalty area with the ball connecting with Greg Taylor’s hand who was less than a yard away from the Saints attacker.

Referee Dickinson initially waved away the home sides appeals for a penalty before being called over to view the incident by VAR a whole two minutes later, during which time play had continued to go on.  The ref duly reversed his decision and awarded the penalty which O’Hara calmly converted to give St Mirren the lead.

The talking point here was not the decision to award the penalty, that was correct.  The ball did strike Taylor’s arm and, as Celtic Down Under’s Sean Connolly pointed out on the half-time show, Taylor did move his arm towards the ball causing a secondary handball.

Instead, the talking point is over the length of time taken for VAR to review the decision and bring the potential error to the referee’s attention.  It took two minutes from the handball to pausing the play to review.  Two minutes during which time either side could have scored; a goal that would ultimately have been rescinded and when play was brought back.

Regardless of the ineptitude of the VAR system, it did bring about the correct decision and Celtic were behind in Paisley for the second time this season.

St Mirren had the goal they wanted and settled into a game plan of frustrating Celtic and trying to hit on the break. Celtic struggled for fluency during long spells of the first half and despite dominating possession found clear cut chances hard to come by.

Then came the moment that helped swing the game in Celtic’s favour, but not without another episode of the VAR show, as Charles Dunne saw red for hauling down Kyogo after the striker latched on to a slack back pass.

Dickinson had no hesitation in showing Dunne a straight red and awarding a penalty for Celtic.  VAR had other ideas and after another video consultation Dickinson again reversed his original decision, awarding a freekick on the edge of the box.

This one was not so clear cut as the Taylor penalty.  The foul on Kyogo certainly began outside the box but the last contact appeared to take place just inside the box, meaning the original call was correct.  The error in awarding the penalty, if there was an error, was certainly not clear or obvious.

A goal down at the break and looking bereft of ideas but buoyed by having the extra man advantage, Ange decided to bring on Liel Abada for the under-performing Daizen Maeda, with the Israeli going on to play a starring role in a stunning second half.

Ten minutes after his introduction, Abada found Mooy inside the box who squared for Jota to slide in and level the scores at the second attempt.

Five minutes later and Celtic were in front, Alistair Johnston showing great determination to head home an Aaron Mooy freekick at the back post.  The Canadian’s delight at scoring his first Celtic goal was clear for all to see.

By this point it was all one-way traffic as Celtic were camped inside St Mirren’s final third.

Abada made sure of the victory with 20 minutes to spare, getting his name on the scoresheet after drilling an effort across goal and into Carson’s bottom left corner before turning provider two minutes later as Matt O’Riley added a fourth.

There was still time for VAR to get involved again, this time in Celtic’s favour after Dickinson missed a clear shirt pull by Gogic on Oh.  Again, there was a lengthy and unnecessary delay before Dickinson was called to the monitor to review the incident and award the penalty.  A penalty that Oh duly converted to put the icing on the cake.

Pre-match there were worries that the game might go the way of the last meeting of the sides in Paisley, instead, it ended up like the last meeting at Celtic Park with the Hoops running out 5-1 victors.

But if we’ve learned anything from this game, it’s that VAR in its current state, is not fit for purpose in Scottish football. Something that Ange was not slow to pick up on in his post-match interview.

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