Naismith questions refereeing after Hearts' cup exit to Rangers

The Hearts boss was disappointed to see his side fall at the semi-final stage.

Hearts manager Steven Naismith felt his side left themselves with a mountain to climb after going three goals down to Rangers in the Viaplay Cup semi-final – but was left puzzled by the circumstances surrounding his own side’s penalty award.

After a hard-fought first half, Rangers went ahead after the break when referee Nick Walsh gave a penalty after Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark brought down Danilo in the box.

James Tavernier scored from the spot, and later fired in an unstoppable free-kick, with Scott Wright netting the other goal for the Ibrox side. Lawrence Shankland scored a late penalty for Hearts but Naismith’s side couldn’t get back into the game and Rangers progress to face Aberdeen in the final.

“We’re disappointed,” Naismith said. “We had a chance to get to a final and and we never managed that.

“So yeah, you’re obviously really disappointed. The first half was a cagey, organised game and then you get in at half time and you manage to regroup and also talk about things that we could do slightly better.

“But it changes, the game changes with the penalty, which comes so quickly after half time.”

Naismith was not quite so accepting about the decision making when his own side were awarded a spot kick. Stephen Kingsley, who had been booked earlier, went to ground in the box and match official Walsh showed him a second yellow card for diving, and a subsequent red.

Kingsley instantly protested the decision, saying that he had been fouled and, after a VAR review, Walsh watched the action on the pitchside monitor and reversed his original call, rescinding the cards and awarding a penalty for a foul by Ben Davies.

Naismith was bemused by the decision and couldn’t understand why Walsh didn’t award the kick straight away.

He said: “To think that he would try and dive when the ball is miles away, going out the park. He is never going to get a penalty for a dive.

“It is strange that the first thought is a red card for us when it is a clear kick. There have been a few penalties in recent weeks with that stamp on the foot – Aberdeen in Europe is one.

“Why was it not just a penalty and then we can review it? It was a red card and then we will review it. It is strange for me.”

The Hearts boss also highlighted a penalty awarded against his side when playing Celtic in the league last week, and the spot kick awarded for the foul on Danilo earlier, and contrasted them with Walsh’s call that Kingsley had dived.

He added: “I find that frustrating that the first thought against Celtic with us at Tynecastle was ‘penalty’. Today [for Rangers], first thought was ‘penalty’. But for us first thought was ‘red card’. I find that very strange if I’m honest as well.”

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