BE CAREFUL what you wish for. Celtic helped stimulate debate about simulation in the corridors of power with their protestations following Eduardo's antics for Arsenal against them last week, but yesterday saw them reap the whirlwind when Aiden McGeady was sent off against Hibernian – for simulation.
To be fair to the Parkhead club, the call for Uefa to re-focus their attempts to root-out diving was led by midfielder Massimo Donati, now on the brink of a move to Bari, and also Gordon Smith, the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association.
While angered by the penalty award last in last week's Champions League play-off, manager Tony Mowbray was less voluble, perhaps fearing that his club might be bitten on the backside.
If so, his concerns were justified, with McGeady now the latest high-profile footballer to land in the mine-field that is the diving debate. The winger fell after a challenge from Hibs left-back Paul Hanlon just after the hour mark in his side's 1-0 victory yesterday, and felt the full impact of the recently revived resolve within the game to penalise those who aim to gain an advantage through deceitful means. The irony of Celtic being the ones made to suffer in the midst of this crackdown will not be lost on Arsene Wenger, among others.
The Arsenal manager complained of a Scottish conspiracy at the end of last week, noting the presence of Scots such as David Taylor in high office at Uefa. He also drew scorn for his attempt to link Eduardo's dive in midweek to an earlier incident where the player received serious injury. But Mowbray's argument yesterday that McGeady was simply tired also deserves to be met with incredulity. Wenger suggested Eduardo had dived away from Artur Boruc as a preventative measure during Arsenal's 3-0 victory on Wednesday, with memories of a career-threatening injury sustained against Birmingham City two years ago still fresh in his mind. Mowbray's attempt to exonerate McGeady was similarly hard to credit.
Whether he was tired or not, McGeady was adjudged by referee Dougie McDonald to have made the most of the incident, with Hanlon having attempted to pull-out of the challenge. The Celtic player was thus booked, and, having collected a yellow card earlier, subsequently sent off.
"Unfortunately we seem to have suffered a double-whammy," said Mowbray. "We suffered from the penalty on Wednesday and we suffered again today."
The Celtic manager, who had been standing just yards away from where the incident occurred, vented his fury on the touchline. McGeady exhibited less agitation and headed away almost immediately for the tunnel.
His manager later used his good view as a reason not to watch the incident again on a television monitor, when invited to during an interview on ESPN.
"It happened right in front of me. I didn't need to watch it again," he later explained to reporters. "You have to put it in the context of the boy travelling 40 nor 50 yards before the incident. You can make whatever judgment you want on the incident but he has travelled with the ball for 20 yards. He has skipped past the first tackle, he has carried on and skipped past the second tackle, and then he sees another tackle coming. Is it a dive? Never in a million years. A dive is when you try to influence the referee and throw your arms up. If the Eduardo situation had not blown up nationally, then 99 times out of 100, or even 100 times out of a 100, never would a yellow card have been shown.
"It's just unfortunate for Aiden that we have had the week we have had," he continued.
"It happened straight in front of me. There was a very tired footballer there. The referee has to use a bit of a game knowledge. (It was a] very poor decision. The half-way line is not the place to try and simulate a dive and gain an advantage."
Mowbray noted that the near-side assistant referee had flagged for a foul to Celtic. Even Hibs manager John Hughes thought that Hanlon was the one being booked when the referee brought out his card.
"I would suggest the linesman is a lot closer to the referee," said Mowbray. "In the week we have had the referee has probably been influenced by this diving situation. I work with Aiden McGeady every day.
"If you have any intelligence you look at the build-up to the incident and the fact he is skipping tackles. Players like Aidan McGeady must ride tackles otherwise they will never play football. He nicked it past him, skipped the tackle and went over. He went to ground because he was probably knackered. You just can't keep skipping tackles like that."
Hughes rued his side's inability to make the most of the one-man advantage, although David Wotherspoon did hit the post with a long-range effort.
The Hibs manager also expressed some sympathy for McGeady, hinting at the caution referees must exhibit in such circumstances. "You have to watch what you are doing," he said. "Sometimes someone sticks a leg out and you have to hurdle it, which results in losing your balance. It's a very thin line we are treading here."