As Celtic revisit the scene of VAR’s debut one year on, how much has changed?

Celtic prepare to take on Heart of Midlothian at Tynecastle this weekend, and with Celtic in good form they will be expected to walk away from the ground with all three points.

We have learned over the last few years, however, that Tynecastle is no easy stadium to visit, and no one knows that better than Brendan Rodgers with his unbeaten domestic streak first time round coming to a screeching halt at that very ground.

The consternation of a reduced ticket allocation at Tynecastle this season has replaced the controversy of VAR’s introduction in our first fixture in Gorgie last time round.

That action-packed game was marred with controversy, with Ange Postecoglou’s men running out 4-3 victors in an end-to-end contest. Celtic taking on Hearts away from home would be a massive talking point in Scottish football on any given weekend, but with VAR making its Scottish debut, even more eyes were on that powderkeg fixture.




Instead of filling fans with confidence in Scotland’s whistlers, VAR has arguably created more controversy and paranoia from supporters. Every decision made is now under increased scrutiny, with neither the technology nor the officials covering themselves in glory. Criticism of VAR from Celtic fans has existed ever since it was introduced, and this can all be traced back to the fixture against Hearts on 22nd October 2022.

Hearts 3-4 Celtic // Scottish Premiership // 22nd October 2022

Here’s how Celtic lined up a year ago:

Hart; Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Jenz, Bernabei (Taylor, 66); Mooy, O’Riley, Hatate (Abildgaard, 92); Forrest (Abada, 66), Giakoumakis, Maeda (Haksabanovic, 66).

A lot can change in the world of Celtic over 12 months. Ange Postecoglou has been replaced by Brendan Rodgers, and there are maybe five players from that starting line-up who will make the first XI on Sunday.


All eyes were on VAR heading into the game a year ago and it didn’t take long for the technology to kick in for the first time.

James Forrest gave Celtic an early lead after latching on to Anthony Ralston’s deflected cross. The 14th-minute opener was cancelled out before the half-time break, however, as Hearts grabbed an equaliser in stoppage-time courtesy of Lawrence Shankland, who slammed a penalty home after Cameron Carter-Vickers brought down Cammy Devlin.

The spot-kick was awarded following the first ever on-field review, which took an age for the officials to negotiate. This was also the first instance in which a referee had gone back on their initial decision, Nick Walsh seeing fit to make the change.

The drama didn’t end there as Celtic were denied a stonewall penalty for a handball from Michael Smith, a decision that left Ange Postecoglou sarcastically laughing on the touchline as it was decided that there was no VAR intervention needed. If Celtic fans were already dubious with the introduction of this new technology, this decision rubber-stumped their concerns.

Hearts took the lead early in the second-half as Josh Ginelly bypassed Alexandro Bernabei and crossed in for Shankland to grab his second. Giorgos Giakoumakis headed Celtic level before Daizen Maeda put the visitors ahead for the second time. Shankland grabbed his hat-trick from the spot after another VAR intervention, but substitute, Greg Taylor, stepped up to win the seven-goal thriller for Celtic.

As much as the Celtic’s starting XI might have changed in the last 12 months, the controversy surrounding VAR remains. Brendan Rodgers will have a tough enough task ahead of him at Tynecastle on Sunday without contending with dubious VAR decisions. Celtic should have enough during their visit to the capital to maintain their lead at the top, with Brendan Rodgers navigating his side through a tough round of early-season away fixtures.

Come Sunday evening, if the video technology again becomes a talking point as it did a year ago, there is no way the authorities can argue away poor decisions as being down to “teething problems”.


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