NEIL Lennon would have wanted his Celtic players to treat the friendly against St Gallen as a competitive match given the proximity of the Champions League qualifiers, but Jozo Simunovic took the instruction a little too literally as he was sent off in the goalless draw in Switzerland.

It may be rare to see red cards in friendlies, and it is even rarer to see VAR being deployed. It was here as a warm-up ahead of being rolled out in the Swiss league, and it worked for and against the Scottish side – the first ever men’s team from Scotland to play with VAR in use.

A first half penalty was awarded to them after a VAR review, though Odsonne Edoaurd squandered the opportunity from the spot, and later, Simuovic’s booking was upgraded to a red after the over-officious referee Fedayi San – who also dished out five bookings – consulted the replay. To be fair to him on that one, Simunovic had a fair go at decapitating Boris Babic with a misjudged attempt at winning the ball.


READ MORE: Celtic hope to have Boli Bolongoli-Mbombo in time for Champions League

Celtic had their training tops on after a kit clash with St Gallen, who were in green and white hoops, but this was supposed to be much more like the real thing. Their opponents were a top-tier Swiss outfit, finishing sixth in the 10-team division last season, and were a significant step up from the first two opponents on this tour, SC Pinkafeld and Wiener-Sport Club.

Lennon may not be too concerned about the result, but he may well be a little anxious about certain areas of the team. The most obvious deficiency is in the full-back areas, where Anthony Ralston and Jonny Hayes were deployed on the night.

He could be doing with an attacking midfielder too, with James Forrest having to play centrally and Marian Shved not quite looking ready yet to fully fill his boots on the right on the admittedly limited evidence to date.

A bizarre mix-up on the teamsheet saw the departed Dedryck Boyata and Scott Allan listed, but the

players who were here have given a flavour of how Lennon may line up next week.

He plumped for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Simuovic and Kris Ajer at centre-back, while Shved was given another chance to shine on the right. Callum McGregor and Scott Brown played behind James Forrest in the centre, with Odsonne Edouard up top.

Mikey Johnston was rewarded for his bright form throughout this tour with a start on the left, and again he caught the eye from the off, producing a dazzling bit of footwork out wide before an exchange with Jonny Hayes saw him flick the latter’s cross just over the bar via a deflection.


READ MORE: Celtic defender Marvin Compper quits Parkhead to join German side Duisburg

Ralston’s shot struck the hand of Victor Ruiz Abril 24 minutes in, and referee San awarded a spot-kick after being informed of the infringement via his earpiece. Unfortunately for the visitors, Edouard’s effort – which wasn’t the worst – was brilliantly saved by Dejan Stojanovic in the St Gallen goal, diving to his right to push the ball wide.

St Gallen forward Dereck Kutesa then showed pace and power to drive away from Simunovic and crack a shot off Scott Bain’s near post.

Johnston took up the fight once more at the start of the second half, as a poor pass from kick-off sent him on his way and he jinked past two challenges before firing a stinging effort just wide from 25 yards.

Shved then played in Edouard, but the chance was squandered as a poor first touch saw the ball carry through to substitute keeper Jonathan Klinsmann, son of legendary German striker Jurgen.

With 15 minutes to go, Simunovic caught Babic on the head with a wild high foot, and VAR was once again called into action to ensure his yellow card became a red. Celtic saw the game out though comfortably enough.