Hibernian manager Lee Johnson bemoaned a “really poor performance” from the match officials after his 10 men suffered a late 3-1 defeat at Celtic Park.
Hibs lost lone striker Elie Youan to two yellow cards inside 24 minutes, the first for a fairly innocuous attempt to close down Carl Starfelt and the second following a tangle with Cameron Carter-Vickers for what Johnson felt might have been a free-kick to his side.
Referee Steven McLean awarded three penalties – including one with the assistance of VAR Gavin Duncan and one which was rescinded by the video official. Josh Campbell netted the first for Hibs after Starfelt was ruled to have pulled the shirt of Paul Hanlon, who was later penalised for pulling down Carter-Vickers to allow Jota to level. McLean also pointed to the spot when Liel Abada lost his footing before VAR intervened.
Hibs remained defiant until Oh Hyeon-gyu headed Celtic in front in the 81st minute and Sead Haksabanovic curled home deep into stoppage time.
Johnson said: “I was really proud of the players, it’s as difficult a game as you’ll get. We were outstanding given the circumstances.
“You have to point fingers at the referee’s performance. How on earth can it be a sending-off for Elie Youan?
“I thought it was a foul against Elie; centre-half pulls and pushes him – Carter-Vickers is a strong lad – and by the time Elie connects with his head, and he does, he’s about 5ft 2ins. And he’s a big player.
“Elie 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.
“I think 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. He’s got his back to goal, he’s pinned him early, and he’s off-balance.
“It was just a really poor performance. It bugs me. Clubs like Hibs need all teams to be on point. We were, but they weren’t.
“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. He was very keen to look for any contact and that’s got to be consistent.
“You’d be giving 100 penalties every matchday if both of those penalties were penalties.”
Johnson called for Scottish football to adopt full-time referees as he compared the standard to what he experienced in England.
“I’ve been in both leagues and there’s a stark difference,” said Johnson, who was himself booked because one of his backroom staff threw a ball onto the pitch.
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou added little to Johnson’s analysis of the decisions but he admitted frustration over their influence on the game.
“I’m well aware of Lee’s feelings, I heard them for 95-100 minutes, mate, I can well imagine,” he said.
“For me it’s more about the disruption it gives to the game. We had 15 minutes of extra time purely on the back of officials’ disruption.
“That doesn’t really excite me that much but decisions are decisions, mate, and we have just got to cop them whether they are good or bad.”
Postecoglou, who hopes a hamstring “twinge” that forced Reo Hatate off early on is not serious, added: “It just felt like a bit of a chaotic game, there was a lot going on on and off the field.
“Especially first half, we just couldn’t get any sort of rhythm or fluency and impose ourselves on the game like we wanted to. Having said that, we created some great chances. I mean David Marshall pulled off a couple of great saves and we hit the crossbar.
“But I thought second half we handled it a lot better, we stayed calm, kept our composure, made an impact when we needed to and guys coming on helped us get the result.”