Brendan Rodgers has insisted Scott Sinclair does not deserve to earn a reputation for diving as the fallout from Sunday’s Betfred Cup final continues.
The Celtic winger has been lambasted for the manner in which he fell to the turf in securing the Scottish champions the penalty kick which wrapped up their 2-0 win over Motherwell at Hampden.
Even former Celtic players Chris Sutton and Neil Lennon have joined the chorus of disapproval directed at Sinclair, who went down after receiving the faintest of touches in a challenge from Motherwell defender Cedric Kipre.
With Celtic already leading 1-0 through James Forrest’s goal, referee Craig Thomson pointed to the spot and showed Kipre a straight red card. Moussa Dembele converted the penalty to give Celtic a fourth consecutive domestic trophy win under Rodgers but much of the aftermath has been dominated by the debate over Sinclair’s actions.
The 28-year-old also attracted criticism in an earlier round of the Betfred Cup when he tumbled under a challenge from Dundee defender Jack Hendry for the penalty which broke the deadlock in Celtic’s 4-0 win at Dens Park.
But Rodgers mounted a robust defence of Sinclair and says it was the player’s pace and game intelligence, rather than any hint of unsporting behaviour, which justified the penalty decision on Sunday.
“I’ve seen it again, it’s a definite penalty,” said Rodgers. “There was contact. I think Scott was clever, there’s no doubt, but I think probably what the referee is looking at is there was no intent (from the defender) for the ball and I think that was enough to award the penalty. Scott is not a diver. He is so fast and Kipre’s intent was to pull him back. So even if he doesn’t go down, he pulls him and it’s a penalty.”
It was the third penalty Celtic have been awarded this season, all of which have been successfully converted. Last season, they had 18 penalties and scored 16 of them. Rodgers has expressed his surprise, however, that the tally of spot-kicks for his team is not even higher.
“We probably get fewer penalties than I would expect us to get for the number of times that we arrive in the opposition’s penalty area,” added the Celtic manager.
“Scott has alway done that, get into the box. You can trace it back to when he was with me at Swansea and we got a lot of penalties. Why? Because we had so many players in that area, attacking and being aggressive in the final third.
“It was the same when I was at Liverpool, the way we played, and it’s the same here at Celtic but I don’t think we get so many penalties.”