LEIGH GRIFFITHS last night insisted he was no cheat – and received the instant backing of his manager, Brendan Rodgers.
The Scotland striker had what would have been a perfect 26th birthday spoiled when he was booked for diving by Craig Thomson in his side’s 4-2 win over St Johnstone.
He had earlier scored the opener and help set up his strike partner Scott Sinclair for another.
His caution, though, was a controversial moment, not least because of Celtic’s anger at Hearts midfielder Jamie Walker for winning a penalty against them through simulation a fortnight ago.
“There was contact in the box. I’m not going to go down unless there was contact,” said Griffiths.
“I said that to the ref. He’s refereed other games against me and he’s not seen me dive once.
“He said: ‘Well, I thought you dived, that’s why you got booked’.
“But I’ll take it on the chin. I scored a goal and we got three points.”
Rodgers was quick to back up his striker, insisting he is not the type to try to con referees.
“I haven’t seen anything in training to show that he’s like a lot of players, who like to simulate to provoke the ref into giving a penalty,” he said.
“I spoke to Leigh on it and he felt he had contact. I will need to see it again on the replay.
“I thought the referee was excellent today and made good decisions but Leigh’s got a booking so we have to accept it.”
Celtic winger James Forrest, meanwhile, said his clubmate Scott Brown would be missed by the international side.
On Friday Brown announced he was giving up on Scotland, as he felt he could no longer give 100% to club and country.
“Everyone involved with Scotland will definitely miss him,” said Forrest. “He is a top boy and a great character to have in the dressing- room.
“He is a great player to have on the park as well, so he is a loss.”
Celtic’s Champions League opponents, Hapoel Be’er Sheva, started the defence of their title with a 2-1 victory away to Hapoel Ra’anana.
Celtic captain Scott Brown announces retirement from international football
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