Liam Kelly slams 'arrogant' referee in Aberdeen defeat as Motherwell skipper left fuming by Jack Vale dismissal

Liam Kelly and referee Craig Napier -Credit:SNS Group
Liam Kelly and referee Craig Napier -Credit:SNS Group

Liam Kelly branded referee Craig Napier “arrogant” after his Pittodrie performance and for refusing to give explanations on the big calls that left Motherwell empty-handed.

The official took centre stage for two big second-half calls. He red-carded Jack Vale for a challenge on Jack Mackenzie, a decision which Motherwell have said they will appeal this week. Napier and his assistants then awarded Aberdeen a corner even though the last touch had come off Stefan Gartenmann. The tin lid was put on things when the same Dons defender got his head on the corner to net the only goal of the game.

Well captain Kelly accepts everyone makes mistakes but said he was disappointed by the way Napier took charge of the game and refused to speak to the players on the pitch or the Motherwell management team afterwards. Kelly said: “I didn’t enjoy the way he was speaking to people today. I don’t care about his position but more as a guy.

“Just be sound, don’t be so arrogant. Some of the stuff he was saying was so arrogant. I don’t care if he makes mistakes because we all make mistakes – referees, players, coaches and fans.

“We all make mistakes but you should never come away from being a decent person. The way he spoke to some people was pure arrogance and I didn’t like it.

“The best refs in the league you can speak to just like a normal person. They might have got it right or wrong but they are sound with you.”

Steelmen boss Stuart Kettlewell claimed that, at the sending-off, Vale hooked the ball away and MacKenzie came crashing into his player, while Vale insisted he was innocent in the away dressing room. Kelly, who made his 150th Motherwell appearance in the game, said: ”He looked over his shoulder and felt he could get to the ball first.

“He clearly gets there first and as his leg is there MacKenzie comes full steam into him. We are all thinking it’s not a foul at all. Aberdeen thought it was a foul but I don’t think anyone was massively claiming for a red card.

“Before anyone could get near the situation, the red card was out. Jack is gutted because that has been the deciding factor in the game.”

Kelly immediately ran to the referee after the red card was shown but was sent on his way. The keeper, who hopes to make Scotland’s Euro 2024 squad, explained: “He has verbally told us to get away. I asked him politely if I could speak to him so he could explain his decision.

“I completely disagreed with his decision on the red card. He never took one second to even think about it. To get control and to analyse it. I think if he had given a yellow card then VAR wouldn’t have gotten involved.”

Kelly also claimed Napier and his officials guessed on the corner that led to Gartenman’s goal. He said: “I have not seen that back. It maybe did come off Gartenmann. They didn’t know, I know that. I looked at the linesman and he had no idea and Craig the ref had no idea.”

Motherwell started the game well and Stephen O’Donnell had an early shot blocked by Kelle Roos, while Blair Spittal had a header at the end of the half which was right at the keeper. Aberdeen were the better team in the second half. Lennon Miller had already cleared an Angus MacDonald shot off the line when the red-card incident happened and there was only going to be one winner after that.

The Dons got their break when Gartenmann rose above Shane Blaney to head in. While the award of the corner was disputed, the Motherwell defence should have done better. Junior Hoilett missed a chance before Kelly saved well from him, while Ester Sokler spurned a big opportunity late on.

The Pittodrie side are now five games unbeaten and are building momentum under Peter Leven. They are aiming to beat Hibs to seventh place and the sides’ Easter Road clash next month could be the decider.