Scott Sinclair yesterday chose to brush off the penalty controversy that Celtic’s Betfred Cup final win left him embroiled in. He did so with a fuss as minimal as the contact that earned it.
The 28-year-old winger was breezily unapologetic about hitting the turf after Motherwell’s Cedric Kipre did little more than brush him with a 59th-minute action that looked like a failed tug but gave referee Craig Thomson a decision to make.
Sinclair was accused of diving by both the Fir Park side and BT pundits Neil Lennon, Chris Sutton and Terry Butcher in an incident that brought a red card for the French defender. However, the player maintained there was no dubiety over a spot-kick that allowed Brendan Rodgers’ men to move into an unassailable 2-0 lead.
“I have got through and felt some contact; I felt he pulled me back and I’ve gone down. It was definitely a pen. I’ve no qualms about that,” said Sinclair, who was not interested in debating the merits of the subsequent red card. “That’s up to the referee. If he didn’t pull me then I think I’m through on goal one-v-one. So that’s the ref’s decision but it’s definitely a penalty.”
Sinclair believes it was “patience” rather than a penalty that paid off in silverware for a fourth straight trophy success for the club the Englishman joined from Aston Villa in a £3.5m deal. That was how his manager Rodgers presented the challenge for his players in a half-time team talk that followed Motherwell shackling the, now, 65 domestic games unbeaten Scottish champions across a cat-and-mouse first period.
“He is always calm,” Sinclair said. “The word he used was patience. He told us we were in a game in which we had to be patient, keep possession, keep going side-to-side and finally we would break them down. The games are getting tougher. They see me as a target, I’m getting doubled up on which does free up someone, but the whole team was being suffocated and it’s down to us to keep battling.”
It was a momentous trophy win for deadlock breaker James Forrest, whose exquisite finish just after the break made him only the second Celtic player after Bobby Lennox to score in three League Cup final victories for the club.
“You want to play in cup finals for Celtic and win trophies and there’s nothing better than scoring and helping the team out. It’s excellent to contribute and I’m hungry to win more,” said the 26-year-old.
Forrest is developing into a performer who can raise his level in the big occasion. He excelled in the recent valiant display against Bayern Munich and has scored vital goals to take the club into the prestigious Champions League group stages across his career.
Moreover, with yesterday bringing him an eighth goal of this campaign, he has now equalled his best such tally for a season. He was expected to be understudy to a Patrick Roberts who instead has become that to him, and in doing so taken his game to a new level.
“I’m feeling as good as I have in my career,” Forrest said. “As soon as the manager came in last season I got a lift and it turned into the best I’d had, but the way I’ve started this season has been even better and now I just want to keep that momentum going.
“If you play with Celtic you must be ready to play in big games such as cup finals. That’s a delight when you achieve that and we want to keep going and win as many as we can. It’s relentless at this club with the game we play and we’ve got to be ready to go again in midweek [against Motherwell at Fir Park].”