Judging referee Bobby Madden’s display in Celtic 1-1 Rangers

Celtic's Patrick Roberts (left) is tackled by Rangers' Jason Holt. Picture: SNS
Celtic's Patrick Roberts (left) is tackled by Rangers' Jason Holt. Picture: SNS
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In the second part of our Old Firm derby Ref Review, we take a look at three other key incidents from the clash between Celtic and Rangers on Sunday afternoon.

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The penalty decision was covered in yesterday’s Ref Review. However, to summarise quickly: Madden is too far from the action having anticipated an aerial challenge that didn’t come; Hill doesn’t go “through” Griffiths in the manner many have claimed, but he does trip the Celtic striker by landing on his left calf as Griffiths goes to strike at goal; Madden has the worst angle to judge whether Hill plays ball or man first, but at the very least he should have called the play back to the edge of the area where Hill initially fouled Griffiths.

There were three other incidents which deserve further inspection as all three could have altered the course of the game. We’ll start with Kenny Miller’s early lunge on Stuart Armstrong.

There’s no doubt the striker goes in with both feet off the ground and, had Armstrong been a stationary target right in front of the Rangers man, it would have been an utterly horrendous tackle. You can still argue a red because, looking at Miller’s part in this alone, it’s undoubtedly the type of challenge which falls under “excessive force” and “endangering the safety of an opponent”.

The reason it’s not a red card is because he doesn’t make any contact at all with Armstrong, and he’s not even that close. It’s definitely reckless regardless of the contact, though, and Madden should have shown the striker a yellow.

Later in the half Jason Holt went to ground after being struck in the face by Scott Brown as the two tussled during a Celtic counter-attack.

Replays would later show it was a slap rather than an elbow, but this should have been a red card.

The rules are pretty clear on this: “a player who, when not challenging for the ball, deliberately strikes an opponent...on the head or face with the hand or arm, is guilty of violent conduct unless the force used was negligible.”

It’s not the most vicious example of a foul like this, highlighted by Holt bouncing straight back up, but you still cannot call it “negligible”. There’s no doubt it was deliberate, and the only aim was to get a free shot at Holt.

It’s hard to blame the officials for not seeing incidents like these, though. There is so much going on that spotting an off-the-ball clash is usually just down to pure luck, unless an official has spotted something brewing earlier.

If Holt felt aggrieved by the no-call, he enacted some measure of revenge later in the game with a heavy challenge on Patrick Roberts. Not only was a yellow card not produced, Madden didn’t even blow his whistle, allowing Holt to advance into the Celtic penalty area and curl a shot just wide of the far post.

On first viewing, it appeared Holt got the ball and went through Roberts in order to do so. A foul was expected, but not a complete surprise when it didn’t come. After looking at the replays, it became clear that it was worse than that. The scissor motion is what makes it bad. Holt impacts Roberts from both sides in quick succession (main image).

The loose pass is probably what clouded the issue for Madden. Rather than it being a Rangers player tackling a Celtic player who was in possession, it becomes what is essentially a 50-50 ball, with both players running alongside it. That distinction doesn’t exist in the rules, but there’s a natural instinct to expect a little more desperation from players in the latter case. However, that shouldn’t act as an excuse for the ref, given that he is only a few yards away.

Given the nature of the fixture, and certainly the way Madden chose to referee in terms of whether to be lenient or strict, a yellow card would have sufficed. You could have argued for a red card, but while the force of the tackle was strong, it wasn’t particularly excessive. It was, however, definitely a foul and a yellow.

Madden’s biggest problem was that he fell into the usual trap of letting stuff go just because it was the Old Firm game. Referees often talk about having to officiate these matches differently because they’re so emotionally charged.

They should just referee it like they do normally, and if that leads to ten yellows and two reds, then so be it. Besides, it wouldn’t court any further controversy because it’s par for the course.

An early yellow for Miller would definitely have helped Madden keep a lid on things. Instead it set a tone of leniency that would eventually get out of hand.

• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.


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