The problem with any argument against the late penalty awarded to Rangers in the 1-1 draw with Aberdeen is Stefan Gartenmann pulled a jersey.
It was clear for everyone to see the Dons defender pulled Connor Goldson’s jersey inside the box at Pittodrie.
Is it a soft penalty? Yes.
Do I understand Aberdeen’s frustration? Yes.
However, if you tug a jersey in the box, the officials have a decision to make and unfortunately it was a spot-kick against Aberdeen.
The incident arose because Gartenmann got himself in a bad position and Goldson got the better of him.
I am still bewildered as to why defenders have to be so close to the player they are marking.
I don’t think it is the right way to defend as you should always give yourself a bit of room.
My advice to Gartenmann is get yourself into a better position and don’t let the player you are marking get the better of you.
If you do that, then you don’t have to pull a jersey.
Referee Nick Walsh probably saw the incident and didn’t think it was a spot-kick at the time.
However, when you go back and look at it from all angles in a VAR review you can see the jersey being pulled by Gartenmann.
It was a harsh decision for Aberdeen, but at the same time I can see why the penalty has been given.
When I was playing, I always thought when I was tackling in the penalty box, I had to get the ball cleanly.
If I didn’t then there was always the chance the referee would give a penalty.
And that is the case with Gartenmann, because – by tugging the jersey – he left himself open to potentially giving away a spot-kick.
To lose a goal like that will be painful, but they have to learn to deal with the situation.
It is a new world of VAR they have to adapt to, and as time goes on, players will learn what they can and can’t do.
Aberdeen were also frustrated there was a block on Gartenmann by Sam Lammers during that penalty incident which went unpunished.
🔵 Rangers equalise in stoppage time!
After a VAR check, referee Nick Walsh points to the spot – Tavernier makes no mistake in making it 1-1. Your thoughts on a crazy few minutes of football? 👇 pic.twitter.com/rD6Xxiic0z
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) November 26, 2023
I know there are blocks going on in the penalty box, and at times it is bedlam in there.
However, the block came after the Aberdeen defender’s tug, which is why that wasn’t given.
VAR is there to try to get it right
Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it goes against you.
Aberdeen benefitted in the 1-0 Viaplay Cup semi-final defeat of Hibs when a Martin Boyle goal was chalked off for offside following a VAR review.
When VAR was introduced we all thought it would be the panacea that would see us stop talking about incidents.
That hasn’t happened.
Ultimately it is down to human judgment and humans are prone to error.
Despite the pain of the late penalty, Aberdeen can take a lot of self-belief into the Viaplay Cup final with Rangers at Hampden on December 17.
Particularly in the first half, the Dons delivered a high level of performance.
It must give manager Barry Robson and the players confidence for the final if they can keep that up for the full 90 minutes.
In the second half, Aberdeen’s levels dipped a little.
After the 6-0 loss to Celtic at Parkhead before the international break, the Dons had to bounce back.
They had to show they are capable of taking on Rangers and Celtic.
It is a responsibility of Aberdeen and clubs like Hearts and Hibs to compete with the Glasgow two.
Aberdeen did that against Rangers at Pittodrie.
Now they have to maintain that level of performance in the Premiership – and the imminent cup final.
Premiership before Europe now
Aberdeen must look at what is most important now as they bid to balance European action with domestic commitments.
The Dons fly out to Finland to face HJK Helsinki in Group G of the Europa Conference League on Thursday.
There is still pride, plus Uefa prize money and coefficient points, up for grabs in the two remaining games against HJK and Eintracht Frankfurt.
However, I would argue moving up the Premiership table into the top six and then pushing for third spot is more important now.
I would think that would be uppermost in manager Barry Robson’s mind.
I’m not suggesting he put out a second string in Helsinki.
However, I think if players are carrying knocks or feeling it a little and need to be rested that has to be considered.
Aberdeen have to look at the remaining European games cautiously because the Premiership campaign is so important.
The Dons are languishing ninth in the Premiership table although they do have some games in hand.
Lets not forget Aberdeen secured Euro group qualification by finishing third in the Premiership last season.
That has to be the target again and the Dons have to start climbing up the table.