Michael Beale claims Malik Tillman was “completely unaware” of any wrong-doing in his controversial goal in Rangers’ incident-packed 3-2 Scottish Cup win over Partick Thistle at Ibrox.
Jags captain Kevin Holt gave the Championship side a shock interval lead with a penalty after 35 minutes before Croatia striker Antonio Colak levelled soon after the break and Thistle goalkeeper Jamie Sneddon saved a James Tavernier penalty.
The real drama came after the home side had put the ball out for Tillman to receive treatment for an injury.
Holt looked to launch a long ball from a throw-in back into the Gers half but Tillman robbed him and ran through to round the goalkeeper and put the ball in the net, sparking Thistle fury and a melee involving players from both sides.
Beale instructed his players to allow Scott Tiffoney to run up the pitch and equalise and he was glad to get the winner with four minutes of normal time remaining when Connor McAvoy headed into his own net under pressure from James Sands.
Beale spoke about a “disjointed” first-half performance but was adamant that Tillman, on loan from Bayern Munich, was completely innocent.
He said: “Malik gets injured and we play the ball out, Malik is down on the floor and he doesn’t see that we have played the ball out.
“So by the time Malik gets up, he sees they have a throw-in and he puts his hand up to the referee as if to say, ‘how have they got a throw?’ and then he presses as he has been taught.
“He is completely unaware of the situation, of what has happened. I had to speak to my bench to make sure that is what they saw as well. Malik came over and I spoke to him and he confirmed it.
“So it (allowing Thistle to level) was the right thing to do. I will tell you why it was the right thing to do. Malik Tillman is a fantastic young player and I don’t want that hanging around his head.
“He has never cheated anyone in his life and as a football club we have high standards.
“We don’t need to do that to beat Partick Thistle at home. It is not an easy thing to ask footballers to do because they haven’t seen it but it was the right thing to do.
“For everything I want to stand for as a club and what I want to stand for and also for protecting a fantastic young player from having something thrown at him which I won’t allow.
“Yes it could have been risky but we don’t want to win like that. We don’t want to earn anything we aren’t due as a club or what we have earned on the park.
“That’s my overriding feeling on the whole situation that it would have been unjust if we had gone through that way.”
Thistle boss Ian McCall admitted the incident was a new one to him, saying: “I’ve been in football since 1981 and I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
But he believes Beale showed class with his action and added: “From my point of view Malik Tillman didn’t really realise what was going on.
“I don’t blame the referee because I’m not sure he can stop it. Maybe he can, I’m not sure what the rules are but I’m not sure he realised what was going on.
“We were just about to kick it back. Then Mick made the decision which I think reflects really well on him and this football club.
“Then it was game on after that. I hold no ill-feeling towards Malik Tillman whatsoever.
“I think I’d have done it if I’m being honest. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if we had won 3-2 but he made the decision and I think it was the right one. I think sometimes a bit of class is going out of football but that showed it.”