DEREK McInnes insisted last night that referee Euan Anderson wrongly sent off Sam Cosgrove for a “brilliant tackle” on Kris Ajer during Celtic’s Ladbrokes Premiership win at Parkhead – and claimed opposite number Neil Lennon agreed it wasn’t a red card.

Celtic had just re-established their lead at 2-1 when the big English striker ran 20 yards to slide in on Ajer, winning the ball in a manner which referee Anderson felt was endangering his opponent. McInnes, on the other hand, accused Ajer of gamesmanship and said the sending off gave them a mountain to climb to get a result.

“The ref had a good game but it’s a poor decision,” said McInnes. “People have already put it in the same bracket as Ryan Porteous’ tackle but it’s nothing like it. Porteous clearly made contact with the player. I’ve watched Sam’s 50 times and he’s won the ball cleanly.

“If he goes in at speed and hits the player, you can understand the sending off,” he added. “You have to make sure you get the ball and 100 per cent, it’s a brilliant tackle. He probably doesn’t need to go in as quick but he gets it cleanly.

“If Sam hits Ajer at that speed, Ajer’s hurt. And he’s clearly not hurt. Big Ajer was laughing and winking at him lying on the ground. There was nothing wrong with the boy, he carried on.

“Did the reaction of Celtic’s players influence the ref’s decision? Who knows. But I’ve just spoken to Lenny and the first thing he said to me was that, no way was it a red card. Even he thinks we’ve been harshly treated there.

“I’m not saying it would have changed the result but it certainly gives us a better chance if Cosgrove stays on the pitch. VAR could have helped us but you still need the ref to make the right decision. He thinks Sam led with his leg and caught the player as well. But he hasn’t.”

Lennon left his media duties to assistant John Kennedy. “I don’t think he fully catches him, he just nicks him,” says Kennedy. “But in the modern game when you fly in at that speed, and there is a form of recklessness about it, you give the ref a decision to make and in his eyes it was a red card.”