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Graham Alexander: Rare for Motherwell to get a penalty against the big boys

Motherwell v Celtic – cinch Premiership – Fir Park
(Image credit: Steve Welsh)

Motherwell manager Graham Alexander claimed it seemed much easier to give penalties against his team than for them after being denied what he argued was a “blatant” spot-kick in a 2-0 defeat by Celtic.

With Motherwell trailing to Jota’s opener and a stunning long-range strike from David Turnbull, the hosts appealed strongly for handball against Boli Bolingoli after substitute Kevin van Veen had flicked the ball up in the air.

Substitute referee Chris Fordyce waved play on, with his assistant also well-placed, and Celtic survived the brief period of pressure to record a comfortable victory at Fir Park.

Alexander said: “It’s a blatant penalty. I could tell by the reaction of the players. We are in the box, we are ready to get an opportunity to score and it’s a blatant penalty, the lad has just slapped the ball away. But us getting a penalty against one of the big boys is quite rare.

“At a really critical time of the game it gives us a lifeline if we get the penalty, and with the atmosphere here and the way our team is, I think we give ourselves a chance of getting something from the game. It wasn’t given to us.”

When pressed about the issue, the Motherwell boss added: “All I can say is we don’t get them. We should have had one a few weeks ago at Ibrox, we should have had one here against Aberdeen last year when it was blatant, their player made the best save of the game. We don’t get them, simple as, and it’s easy to give them against us. We have had three against us and we haven’t had the penalties we should have.

“I have only been up here nine months so I am still learning but I’m learning quickly that it’s easy to give a penalty against us and it’s very, very difficult to give one for us, from my relatively new experience here.”

Alexander was also disappointed in a decision by original referee Willie Collum, who went off injured in the first half. Collum allowed a challenge from Kyogo Furuhashi on Callum Slattery to go unpunished just before Tom Rogic set up Jota to net in the 17th minute.

“The first few challenges, decisions, that sets the bar for the rest of the game,” Alexander said. “That was a foul on Callum because a previous one was given against us in a similar instance.

“There’s a fair way to go from there to the goal but these things are important. That’s why we fight and scrap for every decision because we know they always lead to something else.

“It was a great finish from the lad but I believe, going from previous challenges, it should have been a free-kick.”

Celtic cut the gap on cinch Premiership leaders Rangers to four points following Hearts’ late equaliser at Ibrox but manager Ange Postecoglou was only concerned with his team.

Making reference to comments on his side’s prospects after dropping points earlier in the campaign, he gave a wry response after being asked if the Ibrox result was the icing on the cake.

“I thought the Premiership race was over mate, so I’m not looking at the table,” he said. “We are just kind of doing our own thing. It’s of zero significance for us.

“What is more important for us is that we get some belief out of today. It’s one thing to get a victory here but to control a game here like we did can give us real belief moving forward.

“I thought we were really in control and scored two good goals and created some chances, and Joe (Hart) didn’t have a save to make. That’s the most pleasing thing, that we controlled the game at a difficult place.

“We have just got to keep our heads down and run our own race. When you do that and keep improving, we will see where we end up.”