AFTER BEING left angered and frustrated by controversial refereeing decisions in consecutive matches, Hearts would be forgiven for leading calls for the introduction of VAR in the Scottish game.
However, skipper Christophe Berra is adamant the ‘pathetic’ call that cost the Tynecastle side two points on Wednesday night was so conclusively not a penalty that there should be no need for the officials to require outside help.
Manager Craig Levein’s anger from Sunday’s rage at Bobby Madden turned to exasperation and disbelief in Perth as Andrew Dallas, fresh from mistakenly awarding Celtic a spot-kick in the Betfred Cup final against Aberdeen, stunned virtually everyone inside McDiarmid Park by penalising Peter Haring for a foul on Liam Gordon.
Berra shared Levein’s fear of getting into trouble with the Scottish FA with their post-match assessments of the incident, but the Scotland defender was forthright in his condemnation of the decision.
“I’ve seen the video and I need to watch what I say,” he commented. “But honestly, the ball is going away from goal. Are you not allowed body contact in the box, like seriously? You just fall down and it’s a penalty?
“The ref was 30 yards away. Did he give it, or the linesman? It’s the same things. I know it’s the toughest job but give yourself a chance.
“I don’t know. It’s pathetic, eh? It is. I spoke to the referee and he said ‘It’s clear as day’. I’m sure our media guys will put the video up and we will see. He just falls down and the ball is going away from goal.
“I need to watch what I say but it is infuriating after getting an offside goal against us at the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t the only team it happens to.
“Peter said he hardly touched him. He might have had his shirt a little bit, but when you see it, the guy falls one way and the ball goes out the box for Sean Clare to control. I don’t understand.
“The ref is 30 yards away. You need to be 100 per cent sure it’s a penalty. I just don’t think it was.
“You get some, you don’t get others. But when you get two decisions like that in two games, it’s a bit frustrating.”
Whilst Levein was forced to defend his cutting criticism of Madden and his assistant referee in the wake of Alfredo Morelos’s offside winner for Rangers at the weekend, a series of mistakes have opened wider debate over the standard of officialdom in Scotland and what can be done to improve it.
“There are pros and cons for VAR but I don’t think these are hard decisions,” added Berra. “They aren’t contentious decisions.
“I am the first to say that it’s a hard job – the hardest on the pitch. But we don’t want to be talking about this.
“I need to watch what I say but I also have a right to say whether I think it was a penalty or not. There is nothing wrong with that. I am not criticising the guy, but it’s not a penalty.”