Celtic were “very lucky” that a first half strike from Alfredo Morelos was ruled out in their 3-2 win over Rangers on Saturday, but VAR couldn’t intervene as it “wasn’t a clear and obvious error”.
That is the view of two former referees who gave their opinion on the incident that took place early in the first half when the game was 0-0.
The Colombian put the ball into Joe Hart’s net but it was ruled out for a push on Alistair Johnston after the pair clashed with each other at a corner-kick.
Ange Postecoglou’s men went on to win the game at Celtic Park on Saturday thanks to Jota and a double from Kyogo Furuhashi that puts them 12 points clear at the top of the league with only seven games to go.
Rangers captain James Tavernier hit an impressive double, but it wasn’t enough to salvage anything from the game for the Ibrox men who now realistically only have the Scottish Cup left to save themselves from a trophy-less season.
The Glasgow rivals meet in the semi-finals of that competition later this month and Michael Beale’s men will know they will have to improve on their Old Firm record of one draw and three defeats from four games this season.
After the game Beale said they were good enough to at least draw the game and questioned Kevin Clancy’s decision making, particularly the Morelos incident.
Former whistlers Dermot Gallagher and Stuart Dougal have now given their thoughts on the incident after Rangers revealed they would be writing to the SFA asking for an explanation.
And while they agree the decision was soft, the fact there was a push on the Canadian made it unlikely that VAR officials would call Clancy over the monitor.
Reviewing the incident on Sky Sports, ex-EPL ref Gallagher said: “I think Celtic got very, very lucky. Both players are grappling. For me, best let it go.”
And former Scottish top-flight official Dougal insisted there was no basis for intervention from Clydesdale House.
He told BBC Scotland: “VAR can’t intervene here because it’s not seen as a clear and obvious error.
“If there is something much more blatant, if there is no contact whatsoever, then of course VAR can step in and ask the referee to have a look at it again.
“But where they are looking at that clip and it’s a bit 50-50, 60-40, depending on which side of the fence you’re on, VAR under the current protocols can’t get involved.”
Dougal dismissed suggestions Clancy could have allowed the goal to stand to allow the VAR official to have a closer look.
“The simple reason for that is if Kevin doesn’t call that the way he has and is relying on VAR, and VAR says to him, basically you’re wrong, then it means Kevin is wrong,” he said. “By not making a decision, you can still be wrong.
“It’s important that the referee team call the shots as they see them and if they need VAR to ‘rescue’ them, then that’s what can happen.”
Dougal is open to the SFA amending the VAR protocols to allow more decisions to be re-examined rather than just what are perceived to be “clear and obvious” errors.
“If I’m the referee in that situation I wouldn’t mind a second viewing of that just to make sure the call is correct,” he said.
“Kevin could very well go to the monitor if called by the VAR and say ‘yeah, I’m comfortable, I have seen a push and that takes it into a foul’. He could have said ‘I don’t think that push was as bad as I thought it was’ and that VAR check would allow him to award the goal.”
Rangers previously wrote to the SFA over Clancy’s performance last year following a 1-1 draw with Aberdeen at Pittodrie, a game in which the Dons felt they should have had a penalty for Allan McGregor’s challenge on Ryan Hedges and Ryan Kent was sent off for the visitors.
Celtic also had a goal disallowed in an entertaining Old Firm clash in the east end of Glasgow when Kyogo strayed offside just before his 5th minute strike.