Leigh Griffiths claimed referee Bobby Madden was the only person inside Celtic Park who failed to recognise his side should have been awarded a 90th-minute penalty against Rangers.
The Scottish champions were incensed by Madden’s dismissal of their claim when Griffiths was felled inside the area by Clint Hill’s challenge. It denied them the chance to grab all three points on a day when Hill’s goal three minutes earlier had cancelled out Stuart Armstrong’s first-half opener.
Celtic extended their unbeaten run in domestic football this season to 35 matches but their sequence of 22 consecutive league victories came to an end. Madden, taking charge of his first Old Firm match, was very much the villain of the piece in their eyes.
“It was a penalty,” said Griffiths. “He [Hill] hasn’t touched the ball and the referee asked me afterwards ‘Did he touch the ball?’ I told him that he didn’t but that was after the incident had passed and he can’t go back and give it then. As it was, he has to either give the penalty or book me for diving. I was about to put the ball in the back of the net and, if you look back, he’s caught me waist high. Clint Hill also asked me after the game if he’d touched it.
“He didn’t make contact with the ball and that decision has cost us three points. Bobby Madden is the only man in the stadium who didn’t think it was a penalty but it’s over and done with now and I can’t keep going on about it. We’ll take the positives from it; we’re still unbeaten. It’s another point gained and another point towards the title.”
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers revealed that a conversation with Hill on the pitch after the final whistle simply intensified his sense of irritation at Madden’s indecision.
“It was a clear-cut penalty,” Rodgers said. “It’s very frustrating – even more so when Clint Hill tells me he got away with it. Clint’s a good guy, a real honest fella, and he knows he got away with one. Everyone saw it apart from the referee.” Hill, who at 38 joins legendary Celtic striker Jimmy McMenemy as the oldest goal-scorer in an Old Firm match, feels Rangers merited their good fortune.
“Maybe I was lucky, yeah,” said Hill. “It could have gone either way. It was a last ditch to try and get the ball. I don’t know if I got it. I thought we deserved a bit of luck. I am pleased for everyone involved that we got a point.”
Rangers caretaker manager Graeme Murty, who will formally hand over the reins to new boss Pedro Caixinha today, preferred to focus on a gutsy display by his team which was watched by the Portuguese coach.
“Rangers TV tell me it was an outstanding tackle by Clint,” said Murty with a smile. “To be honest you get them or don’t get them. Things happen in the game and we’ve had some hard knocks. Celtic will say it should have been. But I will just enjoy the moment if that’s OK.
“The new manager saw the players deal with what is an unbelievable atmosphere. It took a real man’s performance to go and play in that and stand up against a very good team.”
The teams will meet again in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden on 23 April and Rodgers believes Celtic’s failure to beat Rangers can be turned into a positive.
“Maybe this result can help us,” said Rodgers. “OK, we want to win. But it just makes sure that we’re ready for that next game.”