Why the referee wrongly awarded Celtic a penalty against Morton
There appears to be three different points of contact. There looks to be a trip on Moussa Dembele’s boot, there’s a little knock from Michael Doyle’s right knee into the striker’s trailing leg, and the defender has his hands on his opponent’s back. All of these happen pretty much concurrently and replays show that he’s no longer in contact with Dembele when the Celtic attacker crosses the line into the penalty box (Image One). It should have been a free-kick right on the edge of the area and not a penalty.
Referee John Beaton is in a good position to see the foul, standing around ten yards away (Image Two). There are two other players in the area, but he can clearly see between them.
However, it’s not just about the proximity to the foul, it’s also about the angle, and in this instance the referee doesn’t have the optimum view. He’s watching the action from behind, which makes it harder to tell if it’s in the box or not.
Even at the point of contact, Dembele is leaning forward into the box, and that will definitely have played on his mind at the time. Looks can be deceiving and it doesn’t help that the Frenchman lands a good three or four yards inside the box. I’d be curious to know how many people in attendance thought it was a penalty in real time.
Beaton points to the spot right away. Some fans may criticise him for giving the decision too quickly, but as he knows it’s a foul he is right to whistle immediately. The Sky Sports broadcast then switches to a camera closer to his face, where you see him in conversation with the linesman, so he did check with another official who (presumably) was in a better position than him. Yes, he’s already given the penalty, but he holds the right to change his mind if the assistant corrects him. The fact that he checked in the first place shows he was at least open to doing so.
Overall, the decision was a mistake, but not a shocker as it has been made out.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.