Saints 1-1 Celtic

By Stuart Gillespie
Last updated : 31 March 2013

When video footage shows a referee has missed something or got a decision wrong, the player in question can be retrospectively punished. Yet the official in question gets off with it. That's probably just as well for Bobby Madden as he got at least three big calls wrong today. We should have had either a goal or a penalty when Gary Teale accidentally found the net with a cross, we should have had another penalty just before half-time before we were rather fortunate to get one 10 minutes from the end. Still, at least he got the decision to send Victor Wanyama off correct. At half-time I thought it was a typical refereeing performance when you play one of the Old Firm. By full time I realised he wasn't biased, just useless. His officials didn't help him either with some crazy offside, throw in and corner calls.

It wasn't too great a surprise to see the same 11 Saints who started at Hampden once again start today. Admittedly there weren't exactly a lot of plausible changes to the starting line-up  although we had a strong bench with the likes of Graham Carey, Kenny McLean and Lewis Guy, with Sander Puri in line to make his debut. Celtic went with the dangerous pairing of Gary Hooper and Georgios Samaras up front with plenty of midfielders, such as Wanyama and Kris Commons, offering goals too. Someone described on the team sheet as "Charles Mulgrew" played in defence. Any relation to Charlie - or just a tribute to Rangers kingping Carles Green, who was in the main stand for some reason.

After the comedy value of seeing one of the Old Firm give a team the guard of honour it looked like normal service was being resumed, Celtic with plenty of pressure in the opening stages as Hooper shot over when he should perhaps have passed. Mulgrew then hit a free-kick behind via the wall and after Wanyama produced a comically bad header from the corner we switched off, Efe Ambrose picking out Commons to head past Craig Samson. Far, far too easy and yet again we were losing to Celtic early on.

The same happened in the Scottish Cup game and we managed to get ourselves back into things and we set our sights on doing the same again. First, Paul Dummett was sent racing away down the left by John McGinn and Fraser Forster didn't seem to know what to do, recovering enough to get just enough of his body in the way of the fullback's shot. Then Conor Newton tried for his second goal in as many games but this time he couldn't find the target, although he wasn't far away when he tried his luck. We were still a bit too slack at the back though, Commons having another free header  from a Joe Ledley ball in that he sent wide.

However, we were asking Celtic a few questions too - Beram Kayal doing terrifically to nod Marc McAusland's header off the line from eale's corner before McGinn had a go that Forster easily saved. The home fans were singing the traditional song after Teale skinned Samaras and Emilio Izaguirre but Steven Thompson was always stretching to meet the cross and could only head wide. Teale was having some great fun on the right but when he found himself on the left after taking a corner he managed to send a looping cross straight into the net. Sadly the celebrations were cut short because Dummett had been fouling Forster. At first glance it looked the correct decision, but replays showed Dummett had been pushed into Forster by Izaguirre - so we should have had a penalty or a goal.

Esmael Goncalves picked up the ball and, as his way, started charging forward. He was tussling with Wanyama and the forward ended up on the deck with more than a little help - but no free-kick was given. Despite being behind we were looking reasonably good, although Commons and Hooper shot over from decent positions to remind us we couldn't afford to slacken off.

Just before half-time Commons collided with Kayal and Goncalves and came off rather worse, having to go off on a stretcher. In his place came, well, no one immediately, and we tried to take advantage of by pushing for a stoppage time equaliser. We should have had a penalty when Samaras inexplicably rose the top of his arm to meet Teale's corner, but even more bizarre was Mr Madden turning down the loud claims. Paul McGowan was the most incensed of our players, his manager having to come on to calm him down while Samaras tried to sneak off for his half time oranges, his facial expression suggesting he knew he'd got away with something. Considering some of the soft free-kicks we had conceded it was a ridiculous decision.

Celtic finally decided they would play with 11 at the start of the second half, Anthony Stokes taking over from Commons after we'd put the League Cup away. It looked as if Celtic would score a second at any time as they attempted to turn the screw, but then we were dealt a huge boost - or blow, depending on your view of us playing 10 men. Wanyama caught McGowan and after Mr Madden awarded a free-kick, he then reached for his pocket and flashed the red card. At first I thought it was wrong but the TV replays show Wanyama went in high and late with his studs. Neil Lennon was furious, but that's not unusual.

So, could we make our advantage count? Erm, no. Celtic let us have the ball and we passed it around while we assembled everyone behind it. There were a few half decent crosses but we couldn't get a sight of goal before Teale shot over with his left foot. That signalled the arrival of Graham Carey, who came on for McGinn. It was perhaps a decent move - we were struggling to break Celtic down so having someone on who is handy with long range shots made sense. Almost immediately he had a free-kick - Samaras booked for dissent after fouling David van Zanten, but he couldn't do anything with it. Vanzy then had a go after bombing in from the right but was even further away with his shot than Teale had been. You had to think our chance had gone when Dylan McGeoch went on for Hooper as Celtic adjusted to the dismissal.

We still weren't doing enough in the final third, but that all changed 10 minutes from time when Goncalves was brought down by Izaguirre. It looked to be just outside the box to me but after taking about five minutes to weigh things up the referee pointed to the spot. Celtic were again incensed and tried to delay the taking of the kick but it couldn't phase McGowan, who gave Forster no chance by shooting straight down the middle. The TV footage showed it was indeed outside the box and probably a dive, but it made up for the earlier injustice.

We got a bit carried away as we looked for a winner, allowing Stokes to get on the end of a cross before he messed things up, with McGowan then shooting straight at Forster. The play marker produced a brilliant pass to Teale as we broke from a corner, the winger charging in on goal before rattling a shot inches over the bar.  Another winger then entered the fray, Puri handed his first taste of SPL football when he came on for Goncalves. Samaras was subbed in injury time when he was replaced by Tony Watt before we almost snatched it, Forster dropping Carey's cross but no one could scramble the ball home.

Still, can't complain. A fair result and proof that we're not going to chuck the towel in now the cup was won. Just don't start me again on the refereeing or officiating.

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