'It's the worst decision I've ever seen' - Brendan Rodgers blasts referee for penalty decision as Celtic draw
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers hit out at referee Don Robertson's "embarrassing" decision to award Ross County a late penalty and blamed him for losing control of the game ahead of Scott Brown's late red card.
Brown was sent off for a wild challenge on Liam Boyce moments after the County striker had sealed a 2-2 draw with a last-minute spot-kick after Alex Schalk's blatant dive.
The Celtic skipper looked set to miss next Sunday's William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers through suspension, but it is understood Celtic will appeal and the hearing will be heard on April 27, a week later than normal because of the Easter holidays, meaning he will be available for Hampden.
But Rodgers was still fuming at the decision to award a spot-kick as Schalk got in front of Erik Sviatchenko and threw himself to the ground, despite no contact whatsoever.
"There is no danger, but the referee absolutely takes the point away from us," the former Liverpool boss said. "I have seen some bad decisions up here since I've been at Celtic, but that is the worst.
"He is right in front of it and there is clearly no contact.
"Sometimes a ref can be conned into it a bit if Erik stretches his leg or dangles his foot. That can sometimes invite it, but he never did that. He moved his foot out of the way. The boy falls and he gives a penalty, which was incredible.
"It's an embarrassing decision at this level."
County boss Jim McIntyre claimed Schalk went down because he anticipated contact, but the Dutchman looks set for a two-match ban from Scottish Football Association compliance officer Tony McGlennan.
Rodgers said: "Is it cheating? It is. Let's not fudge and beat about the bush. That's what it is.
"You see it in the game, but the referee lost control of the game, which led to the penalty and the sending-off. It wasn't very good officiating.
"I didn't speak to the referee afterwards on the pitch. It wasn't the time or place. But I'll definitely speak to him if he lets the lock off his door."
When asked if he had any complaints about the red card, Rodgers said: "No. Scotty has gone in and caught the boy late, but I'd have to see it again.
"But Scott has been brilliant this season. He's never once made a challenge like that. He's been aggressive and strong.
"In his defence, the referee was letting a lot go on him. But that was the referee's making. It was a poor end to the game."
Kieran Tierney gave Celtic a 34th-minute lead with a long-range strike, but County started the second half well and Michael Gardyne headed an equaliser. Celtic took control of the game after Rodgers brought on Leigh Griffiths and Cristian Gamboa and switched from a three-man central defence to a flat back four and another substitute, Patrick Roberts, put them ahead with 12 minutes left after some great skill.
They looked set to see out the game until Schalk's theatrics, but McIntyre defended his player's character.
"You can clearly see Sviatchenko is going to make a challenge and Alex expecting it's coming and he is on his way down expecting the contact," he said.
"Sviatchenko, being the good defender that he is, doesn't over-commit, pulls his leg back and Alex goes down.
"We certainly don't encourage players to go down without any contact, what I'm saying to you is he's expecting contact and the contact doesn't come.
"Does it look good? No, it certainly does not. It's not a penalty. So I can totally understand Celtic's frustration.
"We have had several against us this season which we have had to suck up and take. It's hard when the decision goes against you."