Hearts have depth and Willie Collum under fire – 5 things from the Viaplay Cup

By Sports Desk August 20, 2023

The Viaplay Cup last-16 round concluded with drama at Rugby Park as Kilmarnock knocked out holders Celtic 1-0.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the main talking points from the ties played over the weekend.

Shock defeat for Celtic

Kilmarnock defied the odds to beat holders Celtic 1-0 in the last 16 as Marley Watkins’ second-half goal set up a quarter-final clash with Hearts at Rugby Park. For Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers, it was his first domestic cup defeat in Scotland in 25 games and came as a shock to those who have watched them dominate Scottish football.

Hearts display their depth

Some Hearts fans were wary of how their team would cope in a relatively low-key fixture at home to Partick so soon after the euphoria of their thrilling Europa Conference League win over Rosenborg. The Jambos made six changes to the XI that started on Thursday but still made light work of their Championship visitors, with two of their summer signings – Odel Offiah and Kyosuke Tagawa – grabbing their first goals for the club and another in Alex Lowry making a big impact. The Jambos look spoilt for choice in most departments, but particularly in attack.

Hibs show they can handle Sunday service

Hibernian were heavily criticised for poor displays in their opening two cinch Premiership matches, both of which came on Sundays after Thursday night Europa Conference League qualifiers. Given they were facing Raith Rovers in the Viaplay Cup on the back of another gruelling European tie away to Luzern, many – including their own supporters – felt Lee Johnson’s inconsistent side might struggle to rouse themselves for the visit of the Championship side. They were made to work for a 2-1 win, but the fact Hibs secured their place in the last eight on the back of progressing in Europe will do wonders for confidence levels ahead of this week’s play-off showdown with Aston Villa and their former hero, John McGinn.

Not as easy for much-changed Rangers

With one eye on Tuesday night’s Champions League play-off game against PSV Eindhoven at Ibrox, Michael Beale made eight changes for the visit of Championship side Morton on Saturday. It was not an easy afternoon for the Light Blues, who fell behind to a 52nd-minute penalty from Grant Gillespie following a VAR check. However, Cyriel Dessers levelled from the spot on the hour, also following VAR intervention, before substitute Danilo ensured a place in the quarter-final draw when he beat Morton goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald.

Maybe VAR is not that bad after all

Several managers have expressed frustration with how video technology has been utilised in Scotland, but Motherwell boss Stuart Kettlewell was left counting the cost of its absence during his side’s 1-0 defeat by St Mirren. Kettlewell felt his side were denied a stonewall penalty for handball by former Well striker Mikael Mandron and claimed another former Fir Park player, Charles Dunne, should have been sent off by Willie Collum for a foul that left Mika Biereth with a knee injury. Kettlewell said: “I’m not throwing Willie under the bus, he’s one of our top officials, and rightfully so, but I asked the question about the penalty at half-time and he says ‘we have no VAR’. But I was on the understanding that if we didn’t have VAR, then the referee referees the game, like we were told it was only going to be an aid to help referees get more correct decisions.”

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