Yet again an Aberdeen clash against Rangers ended with a controversial injury time penalty decision going the way of the Ibrox club.
An injury time challenge on Duk was one of two strong Aberdeen penalty shouts rejected in the 1-0 Viaplay Cup final loss to Rangers at Hampden.
Should anyone be surprised?
Penalties against Rangers, particularly in the Premiership, appear as regularly as Halley’s Comet.
It’s an elephant in the room of Scottish football which needs to be addressed.
Rangers have not conceded a penalty in the league since VAR was introduced in Scotland on October 21 last year.
Granted an 81st minute penalty was awarded against Rangers in their 3-1 Viaplay Cup semi-final defeat of Hearts last month, but the Ibrox club were already 3-0 up when Lawrence Shankland converted the spot-kick.
Rangers have now gone an astonishing 71 matches in the Premiership without conceding a penalty.
This lack of penalties in the Premiership is an anomaly which will leaves the Scottish game open to accusations of bias.
It suggests there has not been a single foul committed by a Rangers player in their own box in 71 league matches, or 6,390 minutes of action.
Wow! Rangers’ current crop of defenders must be blessed with the collective defensive talents of Paolo Maldini, Franz Beckenbauer, Bobby Moore and Willie Miller.
Oddly, their defensive prowess hasn’t extended to Europe, with the Gers conceding four penalties in 20 European matches since last facing a Scottish top-flight spot-kick.
The last time Rangers faced a Premiership penalty was January 18, 2022, when Lewis Ferguson converted for Aberdeen from the spot in a 1-1 draw.
Almost two years ago.
Scottish football appears to have entered the twilight zone, and you don’t need a tin foil hat to be perplexed by that staggering statistic.
Lack of consistency for Rangers penalties
In the dying seconds of Sunday’s League Cup final – – Duk was clearly fouled in the box when taken out from behind by a clumsy challenge by Gers keeper Jack Butland.
Nothing was done.
Instead VAR and referee Don Robertson focused on a potential red card to an Aberdeen player for violent conduct in the stramash that followed the foul.
The foul on Duk should have been punished by a penalty five minutes into injury-time, which, if converted, would have forced extra-time.
In the first half of the final, Aberdeen defender Stefan Gartenmann’s shirt was pulled by Todd Cantwell in the box – but VAR didn’t even look at the incident.
Yet Aberdeen were punished for an identical foul last month against Rangers in injury-time of a Premiership clash at Pittodrie.
Aberdeen were on the verge of securing back-to-back league wins against Rangers for the first time since 1993 when leading 1-0 after 90 minutes on November 26.
However the Ibrox club were awarded an injury-time penalty following a VAR review for a shirt tug by Gartenmann on Connor Goldson.
Where is the consistency?
If there was any consistency Aberdeen would have been awarded a first-half penalty that would have altered the course of their bid to win a first trophy since 2014.
After conceding the injury time penalty to Rangers last month, a clearly frustrated Aberdeen boss Barry Robson said: “For me it doesn’t look good, another VAR decision going Rangers’ way in the 90th minute again.”
He’s right. It doesn’t look good.
Rangers’ current run without conceding a penalty in the Premiership is not even a one-off, freak statistical event.
It follows on from a 44-game run without conceding a league penalty between January 2020 and April 2021.
Aberdeen went into the Viaplay Cup final already facing an uneven playing field as their request to have a 50-50 split of tickets was rejected by the SPFL.
The SPFL allocated the Dons 19,500 tickets, with Rangers getting 25,000.
Aberdeen also asked the SPFL to draw for the end of the stadium each club gets.
That also fell on deaf ears as the SPFL stuck to the antiquated notion there is a “Rangers end” at Hampden.
The scales tipped against the Dons further as two fouls clearly warranting spot-kicks were not punished.
Make-or-break league run for Dons
Aberdeen face a packed festive fixture card which will be pivotal to any aspirations of resurrecting a faltering Premiership campaign and bid to finish third.
The Dons face five Premiership fixtures over 14 days before the Scottish top-flight enters a winter break on January 2.
As painful as losing the Viaplay Cup final was, especially without registering a shot on target, there can be no Hampden hangover.
The Dons cannot afford to linger on failing in the bid to win silwerware.
It must be a case of studying the final to glean any lessons from the match, then consigning it to the past and moving on.
Aberdeen welcome bottom club Livingston to Pittodrie tonight and they cannot afford to be hung up on thoughts of what might have been at Hampden.
Their entire focus must be on defeating a Livingston side who are battling for their survival.
Dropping points to Livingston at home is never an option for Aberdeen – certainly not when the Reds are languishing 10th in the table.
A failure to secure a win tonight will pile pressure on manager Barry Robson and his players.
The next five fixtures can make-or-break Aberdeen’s Premiership campaign.
They are capable of securing a maximum 15 points to rocket up the table and reignite the bid to finish third.
If they allow the disappointment of the final to seep into their league campaign, it could be a winter of discontent.
Incendiary words from Staggies boss
Ross County boss Derek Adams may have alienated his players, chairman, club staff, supporters and most of Scottish football with his recent comments.
Adams slated the standard of the Scottish Premiership as “shocking” in an outburst following a 1-0 home loss to Dundee.
He also said former club Morcambe, of English League Two, were “100 times better” than Ross County.
That will be tough to stomach for the people who have worked so hard, and invested so much, to get Ross County to where they are.