With a Scottish Cup Semi Final place at stake and any hope of a treble for Celtic, the tie was already a tense affair before a ball was kicked. As it was, the game against Dundee United would go through a series twists and turns from one minute to the next.
First off, the surface at Tannadice on Sunday was a total disgrace. Scotland is not blessed with great weather but there are a number of measures football clubs can take these days to maintain their pitch.
The ball was bobbling all over the place and caused as many bad touches as it did prevent goals. These were the conditions that both teams had to deal with though.
As of the the 11th minute the conditions would take a back seat. After a series of tasty challenges the game was stopped.
The unnecessary intervention of the assistant refereree after a few players faced off, led to some disciplinary action. Scotland’s so called top referee, Craig Thomson, lost his head and ejected Virgil van Dijk and Paul Paton.
Now it is a referees responsibility to control the game and take appropriate action using the rules of the game. In football, a refree should use some common sense as well and allow the game to flow with as little disruption as possible.
Red carding a player from each team did nothing to keep order on Sunday. In fact, he even managed to red card the wrong Dundee United player.
Calum Butcher was the player involved with van Dijk but it was Paton who walked with the Dutchman. As Kris Commons pointed out in the studio, in the time the game was stopped, a video replay could have been used to verify the situation.
Being so early in the game, it was clear that Thomson was letting the tackles go as the play moved toward the Celtic goal. It was the post-tackle altercation that stopped the game.
The smart thing to do there would have been to warn or yellow card each player. There were several challenges going on and Thomson could have spoken to both captains to calm things down.
Sending off two players was poor judgement. As it was, Thomson missed or ignored the Ciftci/Brown and Butcher/van Dijk tackles so it made no sense to then send off two players and propel the game into madness.
Despite still being even on both sides, the surface was anything but that and it was back to dealing with that diabolical pitch. The game moved on two players down and further controversy would follow.
A late penalty in the first half was awarded to Dundee United. Anthony Stokes was judged to have fouled Aidan Connolly inside the penalty box and Craig Thomson did not hesitate.
There was definitely intention from Stokes to go for the ball but it is extremely questionable as to whether he made any contact. Connolly looked as though he had dived, he certainly projected his eventual fall.
When the second half came, it brought another penalty in the opening minutes. A blocked shot by Paul Dixon’s arm saw him red carded.
You can contest that he knew little about it. The fact of the matter is that his arm was raised and blocked a goal bound shot so there can be no complaints.
Leight Griffitths stepped up but Radosław Cierzniak made the save. With a one man advantage Celtic pushed on.
When the equaliser came it was carved out beautifully. A sweet ball into the United area from Stefan Johansen found the waiting Griffiths who bullet headered it into the goal.
He was jubilant, not just because it was the long awaited equaliser, but that he had made up for his earlier miss. Something which he had apologised to the fans about at the time of the penalty.
The winner wouldn’t come though and the game which had already seen red cards, penalties, bad refereeing, a ploughed surface and wonder saves from Cierzniak was going to a replay. As if playing United three times in a row wasn’t enough.