Wednesday 17 January 2018

Rodgers joy over Sinclair's dream debut as Brown slams Hearts 'cheat'

Tony Watt of Hearts goes past Kolo Toure of Celtic. Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images
Tony Watt of Hearts goes past Kolo Toure of Celtic. Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images
Celtic's Scott Sinclair (right) scorer of Celtic's winning goal celebrates with Leigh Griffiths after the final whistle. Photo: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Jamie Holland

Celtic captain Scott Brown described Jamie Walker as a "cheat" after the Hearts midfielder won and scored a controversial penalty at Tynecastle.

Hearts 1 Celtic 2

Scott Sinclair came off the bench just hours after his move from Aston Villa was confirmed to score a dramatic winner for the champions.

The 27-year-old, who signed a four-year deal for a fee reported to potentially reach as much as £4.5m, watched from the bench as James Forrest drove Celtic into the lead in the eighth minute.

However, Hearts drew level in the 36th minute when referee John Beaton adjudged Parkhead left-back Kieran Tierney to have fouled Walker, who confidently despatched the spot-kick.

Walker was adamant that there was contact, but Brown had a different view when he came into the media room immediately after the Hearts player.

"It is brilliant how well he dives. He is really good at that. He should have been in Rio," blasted the Celtic captain.

"It was a dive. Cheat. What else can you say? The referee came out at half-time and said he got it completely wrong.

"It was always a hard game when you come here, a great atmosphere and you expect a hard challenge like they gave us. They tried to play football and mix it up as well.

"Hearts are great at that but there is no place in football for cheats and that's been a couple of times here now."

Moments earlier Walker had said: "I knocked the ball on and I've seen him (Tierney) coming out the corner of my eye and felt contact so I went down. At the end of the day I am not the referee. I don't give the decisions."

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers was less strident in his assertion of the incident.

"The referee made the mistake and thankfully it didn't cost us," he said. "The young guy took a dive which was clear."

Rodgers was pleased with the immediate impact of Sinclair and insists there is better to come from the former Manchester City forward.

He said: "Scott wants to score goals. He scored 27 goals for me in the Championship when he got promoted with me at Swansea.

"Scott has always been about enjoying his football. The last four years have been really difficult.

"I had him as a kid at 16 at Chelsea - he played in a really good youth team I had there.

"He went out on loan to a couple of clubs. Then, I brought him to Swansea and he was outstanding. That got him a move to Manchester City but from there, really, his career has stalled.

"No-one has really seen the best of him and probably forgotten about his quality.

"But he is still young. He is 27 years of age, physically strong, very robust, he can play in big games, he loves the big occasion and still has a lot to learn so I think he will be a really big player for us.

"You get to 29 and from then until 35 you arguably play your best football because you have better knowledge of the game, and he is not even at that stage yet."

Sinclair showed why Rodgers had brought him to Glasgow with just nine minutes left when he tucked away a Leigh Griffiths cross for a dream debut.

Hearts made a confident start, but they fell behind following a swift Celtic break.

Callum McGregor was challenged inside the box by Igor Rossi and the ball fell invitingly to Forrest, who smartly sent his shot past Jack Hamilton.

Hearts worked themselves back into the match and former Celtic striker Tony Watt - on loan with the Jambos from Charlton - should have equalised in the 23rd minute when he somehow missed the target from only a couple of yards with the goal at his mercy.

Then came the penalty controversy, with Walker sending Craig Gordon the wrong way from the spot after the Celtic goalkeeper had been booked for delaying the taking of the penalty.

Celtic responded and, after striker Moussa Dembele had an effort blocked, Griffiths' follow-up shot was headed off the line.

But it was Hearts who finished the half stronger, drawing two saves from Gordon, the second one especially impressive from a powerful drive.

Hearts' second penalty claim came when substitute Robbie Muirhead, on for Watt, was challenged by Kolo Toure, but this time the referee waved play on.

Celtic struck for the winner moments later. Griffiths raced down the left before delivering a cross from which Sinclair flicked the ball past Hamilton, to the delight of both the former England U-21 international and the Hoops fans behind the goal.

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson claimed his side should have got a second penalty after Toure had tangled with Muirhead.

The former Jambos defender said: "People said was there was only light contact (for the penalty) but in the second half the Muirhead one was a penalty.

"Toure goes in and there is definite contact which makes Robbie slip. It is inconsistency.

"If it is a penalty, it is a penalty. If he gives one in the first half it shouldn't influence him at all."

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