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.
The Edinburgh whistler – who is a stock controller by trade – will oversee his third Celtic match of the campaign after their 1-0 away wins at Motherwell, in October, and Kilmarnock, as recently as March 19.
His first ever game involving the Hoops was a 1-1 draw at home to Falkirk in January 2010, in which he gave three yellow cards.
Overall, Muir has handled 20 Celtic matches – brandishing 60 bookings in total, five penalties (all to Celtic) and four red cards (two for Celtic).
He most notably took control of their 9-0 demolition of Aberdeen at Celtic Park in November 2010 when he awarded Celtic three penalties and sent off a player from each side.
Muir was also in the middle for the Hoops’ 6-0 victory over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in April 2012, which sealed a first title in four years for the Glasgow giants in manager Neil Lennon’s second full season in charge.
The former Fifa official will take charge of his fifth Hearts game of 2015-16, a fourth in the league and makes a fourth trip to Tynecastle.
Muir also fulfilled the same role for Celtic’s Scottish Cup exit to Old Firm rivals Rangers at the same stage on penalties earlier this month.
His most memorable moment of his 24-year officiating career was as an additional assistant for the 2011 Champions League quarter-final between Barcelona and Shakhtar Donetsk at the Nou Camp.
Ronny Deila’s champions-elect Celtic are four points away from securing a fifth successive title with four games remaining as they chase their third win over Hearts this season in league and cup.
The Jambos are eight points behind second-placed Aberdeen but have failed to score in their last two games, including last weekend’s 1-o defeat at Motherwell after which head coach Robbie Neilson apologised for his team’s display.
Bobby Madden will take charge of leaders Celtic’s Scottish Premiership encounter with third-placed Hearts in Saturday’s televised lunchtime kick-off.
BOBBY Madden has been confirmed as the referee for Celtic’s televised Scottish Premiership encounter with Hearts on Saturday.
The 37-year-old will oversee the first top-flight game since the international break when the leaders host the third-placed side in the lunchtime kick-off (12:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
He will be assisted by Graham Chambers and Graeme Leslie, while Nick Walsh is the fourth official at Celtic Park.
Lanarkshire-based Madden will take charge of his fourth Celtic game of the season and his seventh involving Hearts.
He was in the middle for the champions’ goalless draw with Kilmarnock in November and 2-1 defeat by Motherwell in December – both at home – as well as their 4-1 win at bottom-club Dundee United in January.
Meanwhile, Madden has handled Hearts’ 2-1 win at Ross County in August, 3-1 defeat by Aberdeen in September, 2-0 win over Hamilton in November, 3-2 win over Dundee United in December, goalless draw at Hamilton in January and 1-0 victory over Partick Thistle on March 5.
It will be the first time Madden will take charge of a fixture between the two sides who have enjoyed a long-running Scottish football feud in what is always an eagerly-awaited fixture on the calendar.
The previous three encounters this term – two draws in the league and Celtic’s League Cup win at Tynecastle in October – were officiated by fellow Fifa officials Steven McLean, John Beaton and Kevin Clancy.
Madden’s most recent appointment was in the top-flight in the Highland derby a fortnight ago as he handed out four bookings in Inverness’s 3-0 win over Ross County in Dingwall.
Last month, the East Kilbride-born official was named as an additional assistant referee as part of Willie Collum’s team of officials for the Euro 2016 tournament in France in the summer.
It’s been a busy campaign for Madden, who has received 18 Premiership matches and is in contention for a third domestic cup semi-final of his career in the Scottish Cup in April.
His season highlights include five Europa League matches, a Euro 2016 qualifier between Russia and Liechtenstein, and the Petrofac Training Cup semi-final between Rangers and St Mirren at Ibrox.
Madden has also handled Premiership play-off final first leg ties in each of the last two seasons.
Domestically, he 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.
Madden 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.
Hearts would move to within six points of second-placed Aberdeen if head coach Robbie Neilson can mastermind a first win over the Hoops since the Jambos won 2-1 in April 2012 at Hampden Park in the Scottish Cup semis.
Ronny Deila’s Celtic – closing in on a fifth successive title – could go seven points clear at the top with a third straight league win before the Dons host Hamilton on Sunday.
That game at Pittodrie will be officiated by Kevin Clancy, who will also be in the middle for Celtic’s match at Dundee next Tuesday night – both will be screened live on BT Sport.
Meanwhile, Don Robertson will handle Partick Thistle’s home game with Kilmarnock as eighth welcomes 11th to Firhill on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).
Ross County set up their first Scottish League Cup final against Hibernian on March 13 after knocking out 10-man holders Celtic in an enthralling semi-final at Hampden Park.
Ross County reach second major final and first in League Cup
Efe Ambrose sent off early on for the holders
County’s first win over the Hoops since March 2013
Celtic lose first League Cup game in three years
ROSS County reached their first ever Scottish League Cup final as 10-man Celtic’s domestic treble hopes were dashed for a second successive season at a rain-soaked Hampden Park.
Gary Mackay-Steven looked to have set the holders on the way inside 27 seconds by stroking into an empty net but Martin Woods replied from the spot after Efe Ambrose saw red on 13 minutes for bringing down Alex Schalk as the last man.
Paul Quinn headed home early in the second half on his second County debut before Schalk fired home an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box to make it 3-1.
Leigh Griffiths saw a fiercely-struck penalty and another deflected low effort kept out superbly by Staggies keeper Scott Fox during a tense finale.
The Premiership leaders were in sparkling form heading into Ronny Deila’s 100th game in charge but – after another catastrophic semi-final loss – must now focus on sealing a fifth successive league title and progressing in the Scottish Cup.
The post-mortem continued in the Hampden dressing room for over half-an-hour after the final whistle – and the Hoops will need a quick response with a trip to second-placed Aberdeen on Wednesday night.
The Staggies – fourth in the Premiership – must have feared the worst when the Hoops made the best possible start as Griffiths raced on to Calum McGregor’s poked pass and squared unselfishly for Mackay-Steven to sweep home straight from the kick-off.
Celtic, bidding to reach their 31st League Cup final, could have been out of sight in the opening exchanges had Ambrose managed to convert two set-piece opportunities.
The centre-back’s first header was scrambled off the goalline by Richard Foster before he steered another Stuart Armstrong corner off target when well placed from six yards.
But the tie turned dramatically when the Nigerian international was ordered off by referee Craig Thomson for cutting across the knee of Schalk – who would have been clean through from Jackson Irvine’s pass which was flicked on by Woods.
The County midfielder had to wait for McGregor to be sacrificed, for Danish defender Erik Sviatchenko to make his debut, before sending Craig Gordon the wrong way from the spot for his first goal of the season.
Celtic slowly reasserted their superiority as Armstrong curled narrowly over from 18 yards after County appealed in vain for an offside flag.
Seeking to cash in on their numerical advantage, the Staggies made a tactical change with Jonathan Franks replacing Stewart Murdoch just before the half-hour mark.
It came as County gained a foothold with Gordon parrying behind a fizzing 25-yard effort from man of the match Woods but Celtic ended the first half strongly as stand-in skipper Mikael Lustig’s header was repelled by a stretching Fox.
McIntyre’s team, however, completed a stunning turnaround just three minutes into the second half from a set-piece routine executed to absolute perfection.
Woods’ curling corner was nodded back across by captain Andrew Davies for fellow centre-back Quinn to nod home from close range.
Amid the driving Glasgow rain, Celtic’s 10 men offered a meek response and found themselves further adrift just after the hour mark.
Woods was again heavily involved with a driving run and incisive pass for Dutchman Schalk, who took one touch to control before rifling into the roof of the net to spark wild celebrations in the County end.
It prompted some Celtic fans to head for an early exit but – despite the introduction of captain Scott Brown after two months out injured – a stirring comeback was not forthcoming.
The Hoops had a golden opportunity to reduce the arrears yet Griffiths could not add to his 27 goals this season as Fox pulled off a crucial save from the spot after County substitute Brian Graham was harshly adjudged to have handled in the box.
Fox also had to react well to shovel another Griffiths effort over the crossbar, which had taken a slight deflection off the boot of Davies.
At the other end, Irvine almost made it more convincing for County when his well-struck volley was beaten away by Gordon from Michael Gardyne’s cross.
The Staggies defended their two-goal cushion resolutely to close out a famous win in their first-ever League Cup semi-final.
For 15-time winners Celtic, it was another sobering experience at the national stadium where their defensive vulnerability was magnified – and Deila’s future will again be on the agenda as the latest dream of a third clean sweep in their history was popped.
Substitutes: Franks (on for Murdoch 28′), Graham (on for Schalk 71′) and Boyce (on for Gardyne 83′).
Substitutes: Sviatchenko (on for McGregor 14′), Brown (on for Bitton 67′) and Forrest (on for Armstrong 79′).
Not used: Bailly (GK), Izaguirre, Nesbitt, Ciftci.
Booked: Gordon (49′), Lustig (58′), Johansen (90+3′)
Sent-off: Ambrose (13′)
Goals: Mackay-Steven (1′)
Missed penalty: Griffiths (77′)
Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland) – 7/10 Assistants: Joseph Lawson and Gary Hilland Fourth Official: Greg Aitken
“It’s a fantastic achievement for the club and I am really pleased for the chairman as he has done so much for the club down the years. We were determined to give him a second trip to a national final. We thought the way it started it was going to be a long afternoon for us.
“We set up to be stiff and that was anything but stiff. We had to hang in and it was a matter of bottle. We had a bit of luck and getting the penalty got us back into it. But Celtic are a great team and Scott Fox made some incredible saves. It should be a great day in the final.”
“We had everything in our hands but the red card changed everything. 80 minutes with 10 men makes it hard for us. I haven’t talked to Efe about it [the red card] but he’s very disappointed. That’s how football is.
“In the end it’s my responsibility and I’m very disappointed today. All the players are too but what’s done is done. In three days we go into a very important game and we have to look forward to that.”
Osman Sow struck a stunning late leveller to salvage a point for Hearts against champions Celtic in a pulsating clash at Tynecastle.
Celtic denied eight consecutive Tynecastle wins for first time in history
Hearts without a league victory since November 7
Stunning Sow strike salvages point in 90th minute
10 points separate sides in first and third
HEARTS twice came from behind to claim a Scottish Premiership point against champions Celtic in a late Christmas cracker in the capital.
Nir Bitton slotted the Hoops ahead for the second week running before Sam Nicholson fired an equaliser in first-half stoppage time.
Tom Rogic restored Celtic’s lead after the break with a curling shot but Osman Sow ensured the points were shared with a spectacular strike amid more injury time drama.
It denied the Hoops – who move a point above second-placed Aberdeen with a game in hand – an eighth successive win at Tynecastle on boss Ronny Deila’s first league visit to Gorgie.
Celtic’s failure to win for the sixth time in nine games will raise more questions of Deila, who was pleased with a performance which he described as being “more like his team”.
His opposite number Robbie Neilson, however, was left frustrated by a fourth draw in a five-game winless run for his side as they sit nine points behind the Dons, who drew 2-2 with Inverness on Boxing Day.
Both teams were without their leading scorers this season as Gavin Reilly made his first Hearts start since September in place of the suspended Juanma – who was sent off in the goalless draw at St Johnstone last weekend.
As 18-goal Leigh Griffiths missed a fourth successive Celtic game with a calf problem, Nadir Ciftci led the line again and was denied by Hearts keeper Neil Alexander when played in by Rogic as Celtic silenced the sell-out crowd with a dominant start.
Hearts had previously offered little to encourage fans but came alive as Reilly began to cause Dedryck Boyata problems – before the Celtic defender pulled his hamstring and gave way for a first outing in seven games for Efe Ambrose.
The Jambos’ marked improvement almost told on the scoreline when Prince Buaben’s prodded effort from Arnaud Djoum’s low centre was clawed out on the goalline by Craig Gordon.
The former Hearts keeper was also extended by Reilly’s daisycutter after the ex-Queen of the South forward got free of Ambrose.
The hosts were dealt a sucker punch, though, when Bitton slotted his seventh goal of the season past Alexander three minutes before the break from Callum McGregor’s inch-perfect pass after a lack of defensive discipline from Igor Rossi.
But their response was instant as, in the second minute of stoppage time, Bhoys skipper Mikael Lustig inadvertently diverted Buaben’s cross onto the foot of Nicholson and the ball flew into the corner of the net.
Celtic almost regained their lead within 20 seconds of the restart when Ciftci robbed Blazej Augustyn near the byline and saw his low right-footer parried by an unsighted Alexander.
As proceedings turned scrappy, Hearts relentlessly pressed the vulnerable Hoops backline and had a penalty claim rejected by referee Steven McLean when a furious Augustyn felt he was pushed in the back by Ciftci.
Deila’s men turned up the heat as Stefan Johansen failed to connect cleanly with Lustig’s centre before Forrest dragged wide when cutting inside of Hearts’ stand-in captain Morgaro Gomis.
And the excellent Rogic – who scored Celtic’s League Cup winner at Tynecastle in October – looked to have repeated that feat when curling home Bitton’s pass from the edge of the box with 20 minutes remaining.
The temperature increased a notch and sparks began to fly as Ciftci was perhaps fortunate to only be booked for leaving a flailing arm on Augustyn.
Neilson threw on Dario Zanatta and Billy King from the bench for the closing stages to support Sow in attack, with Hearts pushing for an equaliser.
And – as the game drifted into four minutes of additional time – they found the decisive moment from their first second-half shot on target in stunning style.
After Forrest needlessly conceded a free-kick, Buaben laid it back to Sow and the striker sent a swerving 30-yard effort into the top corner via a slight deflection off Gary Mackay-Steven.
Despite their boss asking for calm heads on the touchline, there was still time for Hearts to pursue more glory but they will be content with taking a second league point from Celtic this term after the goalless draw at Celtic Park in September.
Although the late goal was unavoidable, the champions will rue the inability to see out what would have been a sixth successive away victory as the pressure will undoubtedly intensify on Deila ahead of Dundee on Wednesday night.
Substitutes: Pallardo (on for Djoum 62′), King (on for Reilly 80′) and Zanatta (on for Gomis 87′)
Not used: Hamilton (GK), Ozturk, McGhee, Swanson.
Booked: Augustyn (64′)
Goals: Nicholson (45+2′), Sow (90+1′)
Substitutes: Forrest (on for Armstrong 20′), Ambrose (on for Boyata 33′) and Mackay-Steven (on for Rogic 78′)
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.
Ross County remain winless in the six games they have played at Celtic Park
Celtic began their pursuit of a fifth successive league title with victory over a new-look Ross County in the first match of the 2015-16 Scottish Premiership season at Parkhead.
Leigh Griffiths converted a fourth-minute penalty after a foul by new County skipper Andrew Davies to get the defending champions up and running early on but went off injured soon after.
Stefan Johansen’s rifled effort sealed the three points 10 minutes before half-time and Celtic could have increased their lead had Staggies debutant Scott Fox not been in top form in goal.
The visitors improved after the break and created chances of their own with Craig Gordon – who could have been sent off for bringing down Jackson Irvine in the first half – making fine saves to deny Craig Curran and substitute Raffaele de Vita.
Celtic, however, were more than worthy of the three points and boss Ronny Deila – despite describing his side’s second-half performance as “not good enough” – will be pleased to make a winning start to league business ahead of Wednesday’s crucial Champions League third qualifying round second leg against FK Qarabag.
With that in mind, 18-year-old left-back Kieran Tierney was handed only his second senior start in place of the suspended Emilio Izaguirre and Charlie Mulgrew, who is still nursing a knee injury sustained in last weekend’s friendly win over Rennes.
County boss McIntyre has been the busiest manager in Scotland in the summer having recruited 12 new faces ahead of his first full campaign after performing a miraculous escape with eight wins in a nine-game unbeaten run over the spring to finish ninth last term.
The Dingwall men made the long journey north hoping to spoil Celtic’s flag day and the sense of anticipation reached a crescendo when John Clark – the current Celtic kitman and member of the Lisbon Lions side that won the European Cup in 1967 – began the celebrations before kick-off by unfurling the championship-winning flag.
The buoyant mood in Glasgow’s East End continued when Griffiths was upended in the box by ex-Bradford centre-back Davies – one of five County debutants in their line-up – as early as the third minute.
But this time the ex-Wolves striker managed to squeeze the ball underneath the despairing dive of Fox before appearing to feel the effects of Davies’ mistimed lunge on his calf and was eventually withdrawn in discomfort on 18 minutes.
Hitherto, his replacement Stefan Scepovic – who scored twice on the final day of a difficult debut season against Inverness in May – struggled to make an impact or stake a claim but did force Fox into a diving save in stoppage time.
Celtic had enjoyed a dominant start with a familiar pattern of patient probing and crisp passing before the game’s controversial moment arose, which left the furious County bench berating fourth official Stephen Finnie.
Out of nothing, Dedryck Boyata – the £1.5 million signing from Manchester City making his first league appearance – squandered possession to ex-Nuneaton striker Curran and his exquisite pass released the impressive Irvine down the left channel.
The Australian midfielder – who joined permanently from Celtic this week following a loan spell in Dingwall last term – looked to have a clear sighting of goal after rounding Gordon but the Scot was fortunate to be spared the second red card of his Celtic career.
The Celtic rearguard had conceded only 17 goals on their way to finishing 17 points above second-placed Aberdeen last season but was unconvincing throughout with Curran allowed to advance towards goal unchallenged before firing wide from 20 yards.
But the hosts’ ability to carve frequent chances and charge through the gears was apparent as Gary Mackay-Steven’s poked effort was repelled by Fox following a neat lay-off by his ex-Dundee United team-mate Stuart Armstrong.
And Celtic afforded themselves much-needed breathing space before the interval with Mackay-Steven getting the break of the ball from Marcus Fraser to tee up Johansen, who fired home an unstoppable drive for his third goal of the competitive season already.
A quiet start to the second period amid a subdued atmosphere reflected Celtic’s measure of control and the damage limitation exercise facing the Staggies – beginning their fourth successive top-flight campaign.
Although County had drawn on their previous two visits to Parkhead, McIntyre’s side retained hope of at least scoring a goal against the champions – something they had failed to do in the three league meetings last term.
Celtic had evidently – and understandably – taken their foot off the pedal yet still threatened to put County firmly out of sight but failed to capitalise on 22 second-half corners with their disappointing set-piece delivery easy for the visitors to defend against.
Kris Commons replaced Johansen on the hour mark and the midfielder – who returned as a substitute against Qarabag in midweek after breaking his toe – managed to test Fox’s reflexes with a rasping long-range drive.
The end-to-end nature of the second half continued right up to the final whistle as Commons – a scorer on the opening day against Aberdeen in 2012 – had another fizzed effort beaten away by Fox before Gordon parried away County substitute Brian Graham’s attempt.
Nevertheless an eighth straight opening-day win had long been confirmed for Celtic, who now switch their attention to the defining midweek trip to Azerbaijan and seek to finish off the tie having edged the first leg 1-0.
Meanwhile, the Staggies look ahead to next Saturday’s home clash with Hamilton with belief that they can have a better season than last year.
ANALYSIS Celtic 2-0 Ross County
“Few were expecting Celtic to slip up given their impeccable record on the opening weekend of the league season and the Hoops completed the job with a relative degree of comfort but not without a few sticky moments. Ross County made the worst possible start by gifting Celtic the initiative through their own carelessness but recovered thereafter to show what their new-look side may be capable of this season. Craig Gordon had to make two or three superb second-half saves but the question regarding whether he should have been on the pitch or not will continue to be asked. The Celtic keeper was sent off in the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Inverness last season for a similar offence and one factor that cannot be argued is that on another day another referee may have interpreted the situation as denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. Ronny Deila will be happy enough with what he saw and will be sweating on the fitness of Leigh Griffiths although Nadir Ciftci is available for the midweek trip to Azerbaijan. For Jim McIntyre, he will have been delighted his side didn’t cave in after a poor opening and will hope he can integrate more of his summer additions in the coming weeks when the games get easier.”
Substitutes: Griffiths (on for Scepovic 19′), Janko (on for Tierney 60′) and Commons (on for Johansen 60′).
Booked: Gordon (22′), Armstrong (61′)
Goals: Griffiths (4′ pen), Johansen (35′)
Substitutes: De Vita (on for Murdoch 56′), Boyce (on for Curran 70′) and Graham (on for McShane 86′).