CELTIC cruised into the next round of the Scottish Cup by thumping Championship outfit Greenock Morton by five goals to nil, but once again it will be the officials tying themselves in knots over the handball rule and VAR that will dominate the post-match discussion.

A hugely contentious penalty, converted by Aaron Mooy, brought an end to a bright opening by Dougie Imrie’s visitors, and from there, the roof caved in.

A trademark David Turnbull long-ranger sandwiched between a typically opportunistic Kyogo double had Celtic out of sight before the interval, with Mooy putting the icing on the cake with his own second in the closing stages.


When a VAR check takes the best part of four minutes to review, and when no one inside the stadium has any idea what incident is actually being looked at back at Clydesdale House, the chances are it will be a doozy. And so it proved here.

As referee Kevin Clancy stood statuesque with his hand to his ear for what seemed an age, the rest of us tried to figure out exactly why. VAR official on the day Craig Napier’s beady eye had spotted though that Liel Abada had rocketed a toe-poke off the foot of Jack Baird in the Morton box foot, from where it had then cannoned off the arm of the unsuspecting Efe Ambrose from close range.

The defender’s arm was at his side. There was nothing he could have possibly done to avoid the ball making contact with it, save playing with it inside his jersey, or lopping it off.

But when Clancy eventually ambled over to the telly at the side of the pitch, you knew what was coming, given an on-field official in Scotland has yet to go against a VAR recommendation once they have reviewed an incident.

In fairness, even the Celtic supporters were baffled by the call. The handball rule as it is currently being applied isn’t fair on anyone; not the players, not the fans, and not even the officials, who are looking increasingly ridiculous as the weeks go by.


It was hard not to feel sorry for the hugely popular defender as he made an unhappy return to Celtic Park, playing a part in both of Celtic’s first two goals, though the first was hardly his fault as he was harshly penalised for the aforementioned handball.

Unfortunately for Ambrose, his disappointment at the concession of the penalty was compounded moments later as he miscontrolled a lively pass into his feet at the edge of his own area, succeeding only in helping the ball to Abada. He immediately played in Kyogo, and in a flash, the ball was in the net as the striker clipped home.

He defended the near post well throughout, but he also threw in a couple of trademark headscratching moments to remind us all why he came to be such a cult figure in the first place.


With Celtic home and hosed by the break, new recruit Iwata was handed a debut at the interval, slotting into Callum McGregor’s role as the captain was given a rare break.

He didn’t pull up any trees as he looks to build up his match sharpness, but he was neat and tidy in possession and always made himself available for his teammates, as well as picking out a great pass to set Celtic’s fifth goal in motion.

He also wasn’t afraid to snap into the odd tackle or two, suggesting he could add a bit of bite to the Celtic midfield, one quality it has sometimes been accused of lacking.

There was enough to give promise that there is definitely a player in there, but he will be trying to win a place in the most competitive area of the Celtic team, and he may well be forced to ease his way with cameos such as these for the foreseeable future.


It was always likely that Kyogo’s movement would prove too hot for the Morton defenders to handle, and they didn’t exactly help themselves either, as their blunders were seized upon and relentlessly punished by the striker.

Ambrose’s miscontrol allowed him in to coolly dink home Celtic’s second, and he got their fourth and his own second just before the interval as he pounced on Grant Gillespie’s sliced clearance, took a touch to create half a yard, and slammed the ball across goal and into the far corner.

That’s four goals for the week for the red-hot forward and 20 for the campaign, matching his total for the entirety of last season.


Just in case the embarrassment of attacking riches at Celtic’s disposal on the wings wasn't enough – exemplified here by a brilliant performance from Abada – Haksabanovic made his return from injury to further bolster the ranks.

The Montenegrin winger had a few cracks at crossing the ball before getting his head up and picking out Mooy to slam home the fifth goal, and showed his usual array of menace and trickery against a tiring Morton defence that just wanted put out of its misery.

If he can stay fit, he will be a more than useful option for Ange Postecoglou going into the business end of the season.