Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Scotland Wrap

An article popped up in my inbox the other day that made me contemplate that which I would rather not think about. I would think it rather obvious that anyone who goes into officiating a sport, especially professionally, is a fan of the sport. And, summarily, when one grows up as a fan of the sport, they have teams that they support. In a country like Scotland, which has half of its population centered around a city with two major teams, that support is likely to go to one of those clubs. Hence, it is entirely possible that a large portion of Scotland's referees support either Celtic or Rangers and that, subconsciously (one hopes, at best) decisions are made that support these clubs.

I bring this up, and tacitly accept it as something that does occasionally happen, because of this past weekend's Hamilton-Celtic match. Right before halftime, with Celtic down 1-0, a Hamilton defender gets beaten by a long ball and lets his mark in behind him. The defender clips the attacker's heels and, last man back being what it is, gets a red card. That's not the problem. The problem is that the foul occured about 2 yards outside of the box, and Celtic were awarded a penalty kick. In the video below, you can catch the foul at about 3:25 and see the replays thereafter (also, check out Hamilton's early goal. Quite impressive).

Either the referee or the linesman is at serious fault here. Was one of them wearing green-hooped glasses when deciding to award a PK?

Celtic, to their credit, took full advantage of the call to even the match before halftime. In the waning minutes of the second half, Paul Hartley scored (7:20 of the video) and Celtic secured all three points in a scrappy match. That's ten wins on the trot for Celtic, who look very much in control of the league.

Since the last Scotland update on here, three rounds of fixtures have been played. Rangers, of course, are fighting to keep up with Celtic, and did well the Saturday previous to destroy Kilmarnock away 4-0. However, in a midweek tussle last Wednesday, Rangers failed to score and drew Motherwell away 0-0. Saturday, with their team sitting four points back of Celtic (who were to play on Sunday), Rangers needed three points and got them with a 2-1 win over St. Mirren. Rangers appeared to ice the game pretty early, scoring twice in the first 10 minutes in front of the home crowd. St. Mirren pulled the one back in the 81st minute, but were unable to get any more.

Before Saturday's match, Dundee United seemed to be sitting well in third place, while on a good run of form. Unfortunately for them, they crashed out against Kilmarnock 2-0. One would not have guessed the result considering that Killie had lost five straight, but that's why they play the games, right? A goal on either side of halftime sent United down a spot into fourth.

Hearts were the beneficiary of the Terrors loss. Hearts took the long trip up to Inverness on Saturday and came away with a lackluster, but important 1-0 win. Bruno Aguiar scored the lone goal for the visitors, who now lead Dundee United by one point.

The match of the weekend, yes I'm biased, was Hibernian hosting Aberdeen. Hibernian had a stranglehold on the offense for most of the game, but Aberdeen stymied them time and again. In the 40th minute, Aberdeen took advantage of a mistake on a free kick to score. Hibs defender and captain Rob Jones ducked out of the way to allow his keeper to collect the ball. Darren Mackie nipped in behind him and nodded the ball past Andrew McNeil. Zander Diamond doubled the Dons' lead in the 53rd, freely heading in a Sone Aluko corner. Hibs continued to attack, something they have done a lot os this year while playing a 4-3-3, and broke through in the 62nd. Rob Jones, he of the earlier mistake, knocked in a corner from close range. Hibernian, who outshot Aberdeen 18-6, continued to press for an eqaulizer and got one with the last kick of the game. Steven Fletcher proved the point-saving hero when he squeezed the ball into the net after a goal mouth scramble. It was a wild game where both teams could feel aggrieved for not taking all three points.

In the remaining game for the weekend, Falkirk defeated Motherwell 1-0, bringing the home side's unbeaten streak to six in all competitions. The goal was scored by Michael Higdon, his third in the last three games, and came in the 37th minute. For Motherwell, it was the end of a week that saw the high of drawing Rangers diluted by two losses.

Current table (Team, points, goal differential)

Celtic, 37, +22
Rangers, 33, +21
Hearts, 23, -2
Dundee United, 22, +3
Kilmarnock, 19, -6
Aberdeen, 18, -1
Motherwall, 17, -3
Falkirk 16, -2
Hibernian, 16, -6
Inverness CT, 14, -6
St. Mirren, 12, -7
Hamilton, 10 -13

If there is anything surprising in this table, it's that the gap from second to third is less than that of the EPL. Maybe Scotland's southern neighbors should work on getting a league that isn't so Top 2 heavy, huh? < /sarcasm >


Bigus Dickus said...

Wow. That's a really hard one. He clipped his own heels, no foul! But you only see that on the thrid replay. If you are the ref and you are behind play you assume the lad was tripped. His direction changed to suggest contact, but it was HIS. The lino may have been sleeping? As for the position..It's outside yeah.

ü75 said...

Honestly, I think the Hamilton guy nicks his heel which then causes the forward to kick his own foot. It's close, but I think it happens. I still have no idea how it is a penalty

Mosher said...

What surprises me is the lack of complaint from the Hamilton players. There is no way on earth that's a penalty.

Of course, anyone watching this from an unbiased point of view will be swayed by the horrendously pro-Celtic commentary.