"Very disappointing"; Celtic loanee Jonathan Afolabi fights his corner after penalty drama
Celtic loanee Jonathan Afolabi was at the centre of some penalty drama with Airdrieonians after he was denied a spot-kick and booked for simulation.
The Republic of Ireland youngster is back playing first-team football again after dropping down to League One with the Diamonds. Afolabi went into yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Clyde on the back of his first goal for the club against Peterhead last weekend.
Unfortunately, however, it would prove to be a day of frustration for the former Southampton youngster. Afolabi was denied a penalty and was instead yellow carded after the referee told him it was a clear dive. Airdrie were also denied further opportunities for penalty kicks as they failed to narrow the 5-point gap on Cove Rangers at the top of the table.
But the Celtic youngster has come out fighting his corner as he refuted any allegations he was playacting for a pen.
As quoted by the Daily Record, Afolabi said: “It’s very frustrating because the lads put a lot of hard work into the game and it was a good chance to close the gap on Cove above us. The decisions are very disappointing. My job is just to get to the ball first. The goalkeeper was fully committed [on the first claim] and there was contact, he took me down.
“There was definitely contact and that’s what took me down. The booking just made it even worse. I asked the referee after the game about it and he said it was a clear simulation, it was a dive. But I had an open goal so you just wouldn’t go down in that situation.
“I’m trying to get a shot off or get my body in a good positions. Defenders aren’t there to just stand still obviously, they are there to make contact. It’s a physical sport, but sometimes there are obstructions. The one in the second half I thought was an obstruction. I was about to get a shot off, there was no way the defender was getting the ball and he didn’t get the ball.”
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Regardless of whether Afolabi got the decision or not, the result is the result. Airdrie failed to take advantage of their opportunity and had to deal with a 1-1 stalemate.
From the player’s perspective, the result will feel raw especially given he feels he was hard done by. But in the bigger picture, it’s absolutely fantastic to see the striker back amongst first-team football and playing regularly in League One.
No, this isn’t the level he wants to be at for the long-term. Of course it isn’t. He may even still have hopes of making it at Celtic even if they seem a touch unlikely at the moment. But for now, the move to Airdrie already looks like reaping great rewards for him.
Afolabi’s 90 minutes against Clyde yesterday was the first time he’s played a full match since November during his fruitless Ayr United loan spell. He’s managed to make himself a constant starter too, something that also wasn’t the case during his time with the Honest Men in the Championship.
At 22, this is the platform Afolabi needs to be performing on. He needs to be taking his opportunities with Airdrieonians and prove to all of us that he can play at a higher level. The fact Ange Postecoglou has yet to include him in a single matchday squad at Celtic tells its own story at the moment. Major improvements have still to be made.
And as he continues to get first-team exposure Airdrie, it looks as though he’s getting himself right into the action as he eyes up goals in the coming months.