St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright criticised referee Craig Thomson for awarding Celtic a controversial penalty in the Hoops’ 5-2 Ladbrokes Premiership win at McDiarmid Park.
The home side had gone into the break leading 2-1 after a Keith Watson header and an own goal by Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata had overturned an early opener from Liam Henderson.
Saints were denied a penalty claim when Danny Swanson was challenged by Hoops skipper Scott Brown but Thomson did point to the spot when a Kieran Tierney cross struck Watson, albeit it seemed to hit the defender on the hip.
With his first touch, substitute Moussa Dembele scored the penalty and grabbed another two for his hat-trick with Scott Sinclair also notching as Brendan Rodgers’ side extended their unbeaten domestic run since the start of the season to 29 games.
Wright was also peeved that Thomson had only warned Boyata after he tangled with Saints defender Joe Shaughnessy in the Celtic box and his frustration boiled over in the post-match press conference.
The Saints boss said: “There is game changers and certainly there is three big game changers in that second half.
“It is not a penalty. If I live to be 100 it should never be a penalty. How he gives it is beyond me. He couldn’t wait to give the penalty.
“I shouted to him (referee) on the pitch and he gestured that both hands were up and it was almost as if he had caught the ball which didn’t happen. It hit his hip.
“It does touch his elbow which is held in but you can’t see that until you see the camera angle from behind the goal so how can he give it. He has to be 100 per cent. It is a game changer. It turned the whole dynamic of the game. It gives a great side like Celtic a massive lift and almost knocked the stuffing out of us.
“Danny Swanson is a penalty. Brendan would be disappointed if that wasn’t given. Brown doesn’t get anything on the ball, Danny’s knee goes inwards so there is contact. It is a penalty. Joe Shaughnessy. The ball is in flight, he is dragged to the ground. He warns the Celtic player. That is a penalty. You don’t warn players.
“They are human and they will make mistakes but there are mistakes and glaring mistakes.”
Rodgers, whose side moved 27 points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the table with their 19th consecutive league win, had sympathy with his fellow Northern Irishman regarding the penalty.
He said: “If I am Tommy I am probably disappointed.
“Lots of decisions that I see up here – and I have only been up a short time – are some funny ones.
“As a manager I am absolutely delighted that I got it but from Tommy’s perspective he will be bitterly disappointed.”
Asked how he compared the standard of refereeing between Scotland and England, the former Swansea and Liverpool boss said: “It is a difficult job. I am not going to go in to it here in front of you, to slaughter them.
“It is a difficult job for them and I have seen it in a lot of the games. They are not full-time, it is not their professional job.
“They come into big games, particularly Celtic games, pressure games.
“I have seen a decision in the Rangers game after eight minutes which bamboozled me.
“The ball was kicked out by a Rangers player and we are away on goal and they get a throw-in. I don’t know how that worked. That’s pressure.
“They are good guys, they are all doing their best.”