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Hearts' Steven Naismith points to 'very strange' and 'crazy' decisions against Rangers and Celtic

Hearts head coach Steven Naismith shakes Rangers manager Philippe Clement's hand at Hampden. Pic: SNS
Hearts head coach Steven Naismith shakes Rangers manager Philippe Clement's hand at Hampden. Pic: SNS

Hearts head coach Steven Naismith admitted his team needed to learn better after conceding three quick goals in their Viaplay Cup semi-final loss to Rangers. However, the Tynecastle manager also questioned refereeing decisions against his team in recent matches against both Glasgow clubs.

Danilo won Rangers a penalty after being fouled by Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark early in the second half. James Tavernier scored to give those in blue a 1-0 advantage before Scott Wright added a second. Tavernier's free-kick made it 3-0 - all three Rangers goals coming inside a 14-minute period.

Hearts then won a penalty of their own, but only after a red card for Stephen Kingsley was rescinded. Referee Nick Walsh initially issued the defender a second yellow card for diving after he was challenged by the Rangers substitute Ben Davies. Walsh reversed the decision and awarded Hearts a spot-kick after a VAR monitor review, with Lawrence Shankland scoring the Edinburgh club's consolation.

Naismith stated that he found it strange seeing Rangers given penalties and Celtic getting one at Tynecastle last month, but when a Hearts player is fouled in the box the initial decision is against them.

"We had a chance to get to a final and didn't manage it so I'm really disappointed," said Naismith. "The first half was cagey, we managed to regroup at half-time and talk about things we could do slightly better. The game changes on the penalty so quickly after half-time.

"Some people will say it was or it wasn't a penalty but, as a forward, I think he [Danilo] anticipates the ball. As much as Zander is trying to get out of the way, his momentum takes him into his foot. If it was for us, I think I would be asking for it.

"The one thing I would add to that is I find it frustrating that the first thought for Celtic against us at Tynecastle was 'penalty', the first thought today was 'penalty', but for us the first thought was 'red card'."

Asked for his thoughts when Kingsley was dismissed before Walsh changed the decision, Naismith gave a candid answer. "Crazy," he said. "To think he would try to dive when the ball is miles away, going out of the park. He was never going to get a penalty for a dive. It's just strange that that seems to happen and first thought is 'red card' when it is a clear kick.

"There have been a few penalties in recent weeks with that stamp on the foot, Aberdeen in Europe was one. Why was it not just penalty then we can review it? It was red card then we'll review it, which was strange for me."

Hearts losing goals in quick succession is becoming a recurring theme after last month's games against Hibs and Celtic. "That's a frustration because, at 1-0, if you regroup and get some control then you don't know how the game goes," said Naismith.

"If you are putting more pressure on, the game gets played in their half, then late on you see we get a penalty. If it's 1-0, then that's a defining point in the game. To concede the three goals is the part we need to learn from.

"There is a slight difference because it's a cup competition because at some point you do need to gamble. If it's 1-0 with half an hour to go, if we get a bit more control in the game and attack, then all it takes is one moment for a chance to score. Our header at 1-0, if that goes in it's one of those moments. So quickly after that you lose the goals and it's up to us to learn from that."