Fifa referee Steven McLean will take charge of the weekend’s first and stand-out fixture at Pittodrie as the top-flight’s top two go head to head for the second time this season.
REFEREE Steven McLean will take charge when Celtic visit Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership this weekend.
The 35-year-old Fifa official will make his first trip to Pittodrie of the season as the champions look to move further clear at the top of the table this Saturday lunchtime (KO 12:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
In their previous meeting back in August, Bobby Madden sent off Dons defender Mark Reynolds and awarded the Hoops a penalty late on in their 4-1 win at Parkhead.
McLean will encounter Celtic for the first time since he oversaw his only other match between the sides who have finished in the top two in the last three seasons earlier this year.
He gave out four yellow cards and put in a good display in Aberdeen’s 2-1 victory over Celtic at the start of February – one of two defeats the champions suffered on their trips to the Granite City last term.
Craig Thomson had a busy time last September as the Dons won by the same scoreline, awarding a spotkick for both sides and sending off Dons winger Jonny Hayes for a strong challenge on Mikael Lustig.
Meanwhile, McLean will oversee his second Aberdeen game of the current season after their 3-1 win at Dundee in September – as the Dons’ Kenny McLean converted a penalty and Dundee’s Mark O’Hara was dismissed late on for a second bookable offence.
McLean handled seven Aberdeen games in 2015-16 but it will be his first match at Pittodrie since the end of February – a 1-1 draw with St Johnstone, in which he awarded the visitors a controversial late penalty.
Before taking charge of the stand-out match of the weekend, he made the calls at Dens Park for bottom club Dundee’s 2-0 defeat by Partick Thistle on Wednesday night – booking six players in his sixth top-flight game this term.
McLean – a Fifa referee since 2010 who refereed his first SPL game in November 2008 – has so far issued 67 yellow cards, sent off two players and awarded three penalties in 15 games this season in all competitions.
The eagerly-awaited contest – a dress rehearsal for next month’s Betfred Cup Final – will bring together challengers Aberdeen and leaders Celtic, who are four points clear having played two games fewer.
Elsewhere, Nick Walsh is to oversee Motherwell against Ross County, John Beaton will handle Rangers’ clash with Kilmarnock and Barry Cook has been appointed to St Johnstone against Partick Thistle.
You can see a full list of this weekend’s SPFL match official appointments here.
Controversial Euro 2016 whistler Willie Collum incurred the wrath of Kilmarnock fans after giving Aberdeen a dubious penalty for the opening goal in Saturday’s 4-0 win at Rugby Park.
Notoriously card-happy and not one to shy away from a big decision, Willie Collum is no stranger to controversy.
And Scotland’s Euro 2016 referee found himself in the spotlight again on Saturday after a penalty award which had more than a hint of contention about it.
Kilmarnock were containing Aberdeen well until the 25th minute of their Scottish Premiership encounter at Rugby Park when Killie keeper Jamie MacDonald and Dons playmaker James Maddison came together.
On first viewing, it seemed MacDonald had been fouled by Maddison, losing the ball from his grasp before the slightest of contact sent the on-loan Norwich man to the deck.
Many home supporters expected a free-kick for their side, but were left aghast when Collum pointed to the spot and booked MacDonald to boot.
It allowed Adam Rooney to send the keeper the wrong way from 12 yards and gave the Dons the platform to a comfortable 4-0 victory in Ayrshire, with Rooney scoring later after strikes from defenders Andy Considine and Ash Taylor.
It was a tough decision for Collum to make, with the incident happening at such a fast pace, but he wouldn’t find much sympathy on social media as Scottish football followers roundly condemned the call…
The penalty Aberdeen got at Rugby Park on Saturday (from Willie Collum?) is just laughable. Farcical decision.
But Rangers boss Mark Warburton was furious with the award of the decisive free-kick – when James Tavernier was booked despite appearing to poke the ball away from Hayes – and angrily confronted referee John Beaton on the pitch after the full-time whistle.
It leaves the Gers seventh in the table with nine points from seven league games – in which they have conceded the first goal in five of them.
But despite a respectable display and his side boasting 63 per cent possession, Warburton must be concerned as their winless run in the Scottish Premiership stretches to four games.
Nevertheless, it was a fantastic spectacle for the neutral – featuring nine yellow cards – as a long-awaited first meeting since January 2012 saw one of Scottish football’s most bruising rivalries renewed.
As predicted, there was a frantic and fast tempo to the opening exchanges in front of a near full house at Pittodrie, with both sides – who reached the Betfred Cup semi-finals in midweek – taking time to settle into a rhythm.
Harry Forrester’s shot deflected behind by Anthony O’Connor before an Adam Rooney effort at the other end was blocked by Danny Wilson – illustrating both sets of defences were on top in the first period.
The first flashpoint took 10 minutes to arise when Joe Garner took offence to a foul on him by O’Connor, but referee Beaton handled the situation well, reminding them in no uncertain terms who was in charge.
A lack of control early on was emphasised by Garner’s needless sliding challenge on Hayes, which earned him a yellow card.
The ex-Preston striker made his presence felt throughout and he should have done better when heading Tavernier’s delightful cross over the crossbar on 17 minutes.
Tavernier’s free-kick from 20 yards couldn’t a way past the Aberdeen wall before Joe Lewis was required to make an excellent save, scampering across his goalline after Garner’s wayward shot looped up off Shay Logan’s foot and was bound for the bottom corner.
Jason Holt – on his 50th Rangers appearance – rifled a half volley straight at Lewis after Garner missed his kick from Tavernier’s cutback before Barrie McKay curled off target on his right foot.
Aberdeen sat deep for long periods and struggled to carve out any kind of chances, with a Kenny McLean drive tipped over superbly by Foderingham the closest they came.
But after a first half lacking in goalscoring opportunities, the second period exploded into life as the Dons – who introduced Maddison for Peter Pawlett at the interval – drew first blood in no time at all.
A simple long ball forward by Lewis was flicked on by Rooney into the path of the onrushing Hayes, who easily escaped the Rangers defence to slot underneath Foderingham.
The Gers mustered a positive reply as Halliday’s free-kick flashed across the face of goal and drifted wide, before Wallace fired over from range but an effective end product continued to desert them.
Aberdeen largely offered a sporadic threat on the counter thereafter but remained a solid unit to thwart the Gers, who sent on Niko Kranjcar and Michael O’Halloran in place of Forrester and Waghorn.
Hayes got clear again down the left and his low effort was denied by Foderingham at the near post, after the Dons soaked up a sustained period of pressure.
But the Irish winger was at fault after bringing down the marauding Wallace, who was released in behind by substitute Kenny Miller.
It gave Rangers fan Halliday the chance to step up and send Lewis the wrong way from the spot, for his second goal in as many games.
From then on, Aberdeen pressed for a winner and, as the end of normal time approached, 19-year-old Maddison supplied it in dramatic fashion with the deadliest of free-kicks – surely a goal of the season contender.
Rangers desperately tried to respond but time was against them as they suffered their second league defeat of the season, while the Dons recorded a first win over the men from Govan since 2009.
Substitutes: Maddison (on for Pawlett 45′), Burns (on for McGinn 78′) and Taylor (on for Rooney 90+1). Not used: Alexander (GK), Storey, Storie, Stockley. Booked: Hayes, McLean, Shinnie, Reynolds, O’Connor
Substitutes: Kranjcar (on for Forrester 63′), O’Halloran (on for Waghorn 69′) and Miller (on for Garner 77′). Not used: Gilks (GK), Hodson, Senderos, Dodoo. Booked: Garner, Wilson, Kranjcar, Tavernier
Referee: John Beaton – 7/10 Assistant referees: Dougie Potter and Andrew McWilliam Fourth official: Don Robertson
Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes:
“It was a sensational winner. The players fought hard for that. First half, I was really annoyed with how we played. Getting the [Jonny Hayes] goal gives the players that belief and confidence to go and get the win. They [Rangers] get a lifeline with the penalty kick. Wee James [Maddison], what a free-kick. We should be shouting from the rooftops with how good that is. We deserved the three points.”
Rangers boss Mark Warburton:
“We dominated the ball first half completely but went in at half-time frustrated it was 0-0. We gave away a schoolboy goal and for three or four minutes we looked a bit rocky. We lost our composure then got the ball down, then played. We got our rewards via the penalty and I thought there was (only) one team in it. I said to (assistant) Davie Weir we’d be frustrated to only get a point here when we have come and delivered a really good performance. I am never happy to drop a point, never mind three. I will be careful what I say about the free-kick. Everyone saw the ball move. The fourth official on the sidelines saw the ball move and made a comment. And yet a free-kick is given.”
“We’re obviously very disappointed. I think the first half we played very well and over the last couple of games we have played well but we need to start picking up points now. You could say that we dominated or that we were the better side but that happens in football. We just have to try to take our chances and be positive.”
Huge win for #Aberdeen. #Rangers should be concerned that they couldn't beat a side who were poor for most of the match.
After the excitement of the Old Firm, another of Scottish football’s bitter feuds is back as the two rivals hoping to compete for Celtic’s crown meet at Pittodrie for the first time in five years.
ONE of Scottish football’s most intense feuds resumes this weekend after being put on hold for four years.
Regarded by many as the next best thing to the Old Firm, Aberdeen against Rangers has often been a fiery fixture, which embodied the competitive edge to the former Scottish Premier League era.
With the Dons rediscovering their form in last week’s classy come-from-behind win at Dundee, Derek McInnes’s side will be primed to take on a beleaguered Gers side who have endured a difficult start to their long-awaited Premiership return.
The outspoken Englishman’s latest outburst seemed to have proved detrimental to both his career and Rangers’ season, but the experienced midfield man – now the subject of a betting investigation – has vowed to fight back.
The fiasco could not be more welcome or ideal, during a period in which the Gers have only won one of their last four games – and, even more worryingly, look disjointed and defensively frail.
But their regular League Cup keeper Matt Gilks, a former team-mate of Barton’s at Burnley, took to the media to insist it hasn’t unsettled the squad or affected their match preparations.
This was emphasised in a typically bruising encounter in October 2011, the last time the men from Govan made the trip to the north-east, when Kyle Lafferty’s clinical finish and a Nikica Jelavic penalty helped the Gers to a 2-1 victory, putting them in firm control in the title race.
But neither have fully established themselves as pacesetters having opened the campaign in stuttering fashion, punctuated by glimpses of brilliance and moments of madness in equal measure.
Heading into the seventh round of matches, both sides are adjacent in the table with almost identical records – fourth and fifth respectively, with two wins, three draws and a defeat from six league games.
Aberdeen had a more difficult route than Rangers into the League Cup’s last four, as recently as Thursday night, with Adam Rooney’s 90th minute header the difference against a stubborn St Johnstone.
It extended the Dons’ steady but unspectacular opening to the campaign but – like the Gers – their only domestic defeat thus far has come at Celtic Park, with Aberdeen on the end of a similar resounding loss at the end of August.
And both the Dons and the Gers will be desperately hoping for the win which would provide a psychological boost to their faltering bids in challenging champions Celtic.
While, from the neutral point of view, it has all the ingredients of a classic.
Aberdeen skipper Ryan Jack will be sidelined once again as he continues to recuperate from knee surgery.
Winger Jonny Hayes missed Thursday’s League Cup tie against St Johnstone after sustaining a hamstring injury in the warm-up but the Irishman expects to be fit to face the Gers.
Rangers captain Lee Wallace should return at left-back after being rested for Tuesday’s League Cup tie against Queen of the South.
Andy Halliday, who described taking over the armband in midweek as “one of the proudest moments of my career”, is set to continue in midfield with Barton – the man he had a training ground row with last week – suspended by the club for three weeks.
Matt Gilks was in goal against the Doonhamers in midweek but is set to return to the bench, with Wes Foderingham likely to come back in.
Referee: John Beaton Assistants referees: Dougie Potter and Andrew McWilliam Fourth official: Don Robertson
Fifa official Beaton, 34, has already had some eventful games and controversial moments so far this season – giving 11 yellow cards and a penalty for a dive, three penalties in 45 minutes, booking two players for diving in the same game and sending a manager to the stands for sarcastically applauding a decision.
But the Lanarkshire whistler will be hoping for a quieter afternoon in arguably his biggest match of the campaign so far – and his first between Aberdeen and Rangers.
You can read more about Beaton’s appointment here.
It was another early-season showdown at Pittodrie which produced one of the most thrilling games between these bitter rivals in recent times.
Reigning champions Rangers looked on course to suffer their first defeat of the season when Scott Vernon and Chris Maguire fired the Dons into a 2-0 lead inside half-an-hour.
But Kenny Miller, currently in his third spell with the Ibrox club, continued his excellent form at the start of the campaign by first converting a controversially awarded penalty before blasting home his second to level the scores.
Nikica Jelavic notched the winner midway through the second half and Aberdeen’s Maguire saw red late on as the Gers moved above Celtic at the top of the SPL on goal difference, with both sides winning their first six league games.
But the defiant former Brentford boss has shook off the haters and, after a shambolic display against fellow fierce rivals Celtic earlier this month, insists his players are ready for the challenge they face against the Dons.
He said: “They want to play in these type of games. It will be a 20,000 sell-out and an intimidating atmosphere and they will enjoy that. It has been five years since we have been up there. The fans are looking forward to it and so are the players.
“We are looking forward to the trip north. After what happened at Parkhead hard work is the only way of getting better.”
Opposite number Derek McInnes has questioned why his side have been given two days less to prepare for the game but insists the Dons will be at full strength and ready for Rangers.
Speaking after his team booked a League Cup semi spot against Morton, McInnes said: “We need a big effort from everyone for Sunday. It’s ridiculous that Rangers have 48 hours of extra recovery before a league game when there doesn’t need to be.
“Why our game was moved to the Thursday, I don’t get. But it is what it is – and we’ll be ready for them come Sunday.
“It will be a full house here, everyone wants to be involved in it. I think it’s a significant fixture on the calendar, Aberdeen against Rangers.
“It probably gets everyone fired up. They’re a good side, they had an impressive performance the other night.
“Rangers have got too much quality, having invested heavily in a squad that already looked good in the Championship, to consider them anything but a tough nut to crack. But we’re in good form. And tonight’s result helps.
“I don’t know about us being favourites. I can’t go and spend £2 million or £3 million and pay the wages they do. But we always feel we can win, especially at Pittodrie. Sunday is no different.”
Domestically, Madden was promoted to Category One in 2009 and has built up a wealth of experience and respect to become a Scottish top-flight regular since his first match in January 2011.
He first took up the whistle in 2002 and last year revealed that an advert in the East Kilbride News – spotted by his brother Jamie – inspired him to become involved in refereeing after realising he wouldn’t make the grade as a professional player.
Since joining the Fifa list in 2010, Madden has refereed several Europa League games and been an additional assistant referee for Champions League matches, the 2015 Uefa Super Cup, and part of Willie Collum’s team of Euro 2016 officials for two group games.
The East Kilbride-born whistler has also controlled several domestic cup semi-finals and play-off matches, with his biggest honour coming in 2015 when appointed to referee Celtic’s 2-0 win over Dundee United in the League Cup Final at Hampden Park.
Saturday’s game at Celtic Park – surprisingly not being broadcast live on TV – will be Madden’s seventh of the campaign in all competitions, his third in the top-flight.
He has so far brandished 15 yellow cards, sent off one player and awarded four penalties – three of which came in the space of 23 minutes in St Johnstone’s 3-0 win over Falkirk during the Betfred Cup first round group phase.
Elsewhere, Kevin Clancy will take charge of Rangers’ Friday night trip to face Kilmarnock at Rugby Park and Greg Aitken will oversee his first top-flight game of the season when Hamilton host Ross County on Saturday.
You can view a full list of SPFL match official appointments here.
Bobby Madden has been assigned to champions elect Celtic’s Scottish Premiership showdown with Aberdeen at Celtic Park on Sunday.
BOBBY Madden will take charge of Celtic’s Scottish Premiership encounter with Aberdeen this weekend.
The 37-year-old will be in the middle at Parkhead on Sunday as the champions elect look to mathematically wrap up another title against their nearest challengers (KO 12:30, live on Sky Sports 3).
Celtic – currently nine points clear of the second-placed Dons with three games left – had effectively clinched a fifth successive crown with last weekend’s 3-1 win at Hearts due to their vastly superior goal difference.
Madden will be assisted in Glasgow by Dougie Potter and Michael Banks, with Barry Cook operating as the fourth official.
Willie Collum to handle Celtic v Aberdeen at Parkhead on Saturday while John Beaton is set for Rangers’ trip to Hibernian on Sunday.
WILLIE Collum will be the referee when the Scottish Premiership’s top two meet for the second time this season at Celtic Park this weekend.
The 36-year-old from Lanarkshire will be the man in charge as champions Celtic seek to go seven points clear of second-placed Aberdeen at the top of the table in Saturday’s lunchtime game (KO 12:30pm, live on Sky Sports).
He will be assisted by linesmen Frank Connor and Dougie Potter in Glasgow while the fourth official is Barry Cook.
The only two occasions Collum has handled this particular fixture have been in the Scottish Cup but surprisingly it will be the first time he will oversee a league encounter between the Hoops and the Dons.
Five of the last 10 meetings between the sides have been refereed by Craig Thomson, including this season’s reverse encounter at Pittodrie which the Dons won 2-1 in September when he was criticised by some for failing to send off Considine for conceding a penalty.
Both of Collum’s Celtic games came in August in which he was widely scrutinised for failing to send off Craig Gordon on the opening weekend against Ross County before officiating their 3-1 win over Dundee United at Tannadice.
It will be the second time the Religious Education teacher from Belshill will be in the middle for a Dons match this term after their 2-1 win over Motherwell at Fir Park in mid-August.
Overall, the Glasgow-born whistler has brandished 66 yellow cards, sent off five players and awarded eight penalties in 17 games in all competitions this season.
Collum officiated a Premiership game in eight of the first nine rounds of fixtures but has only overseen two in the last month.
Elsewhere, John Beaton will take charge of Sunday’s Scottish Championship clash between Hibernian and leaders Rangers (KO 12:30pm, live on Sky Sports).
The 33-year-old will be assisted by Willie Conquer and Graeme Stewart with Euan Anderson in control of fourth official duties.
Beaton was in the middle for the play-off meeting between the two promotion rivals at Easter Road in May, which Hibs won 1-0 but lost 3-2 on aggregate.
The Motherwell-based whistler also handled the Petrofac Training Cup first round tie last season at Ibrox which Rangers won 2-1 after extra time after he sent off Hibs striker Danny Handling for a robust challenge on David Templeton.
He has overseen Hibernian once so far this term in their 3-0 League Cup first round win over Montrose in August but is yet to encounter Rangers in any competition.
Domestically, Beaton has officiated 13 games, brandishing 53 yellow cards, three red cards and awarding three penalties.
It will be his third Championship game of the season on Sunday when the top-two meet in the capital with Rangers having won all 11 league outings so far and looking to go 11 points clear of Alan Stubbs’ team.
Beaton – one of seven Scottish Fifa officials and cousin of fellow referee Steven Nicholls – took charge of several high-profile games last season including Hibernian’s 1-0 defeat by Falkirk in the Scottish Cup semi-finals, Celtic’s 4-0 win over Aberdeen and the Challenge Cup final.