Steven Gerrard labelled the officials “bang out of order” after he was sent-off in Rangers’ 1-0 win at Livingston on Wednesday that edged the Glasgow giants to the brink of winning the Scottish Premiership.
Gerrard may have to watch his side’s coronation as champions from the stands after being shown two yellow cards in quick succession when he burst onto the pitch at the break to confront referee John Beaton.
The former England and Liverpool captain was incensed after Alfredo Morelos was booked for diving, despite having clearly been fouled in the box just before the interval.
“It’s a blatant penalty, it’s a stonewaller,” said Gerrard.
“I’m someone who wants to support officials because we are all human and we will make a mistake.
“But what I can’t stand for at this level is three people making the same mistake. They all had clear views of it. I could see it and I’m the furthest away.
“I’ll go with a mistake from one of them but not three. It’s not right, it’s not fair. It’s a stonewaller and it’s bang out of order.”
Rangers could end their 10-year wait for a league title as early as this weekend if they beat St Mirren on Saturday and Celtic fail to win at Dundee United on Sunday.
However, if Celtic keep themselves alive at Tannadice, Rangers will have the chance to seal the championship on their rivals’ own turf in the third Old Firm derby of the season on March 21.
Morelos had the last laugh on his manager’s behalf when the Colombian fired home an 87th-minute winner to extend Rangers’ lead over Celtic to 18 points.
It had been a rather uneventful contest until Beaton intervened eight minutes before the break.
Morelos hit the deck as he went past Max Stryjek while chasing down Steven Davis’ sublime ball over the top.
Beaton looked for a moment set to point to the spot before changing his mind and reaching for the top pocket to book Morelos.
Gerrard exploded on the touchline and had every right as replays showed Livi’s Polish keeper had made clear contact as he clipped Morelos’ heel.
Gerrard’s mood would not have been helped by the sight of an offside flag going up just as Connor Goldson headed home from Borna Barisic’s free-kick four minutes after the restart.
If the half-time bust-up had not been explosive enough, Beaton was then forced to momentarily call a halt to the action as a barrage of fireworks were let off outside the ground in the 55th minute by Rangers fans hailing what they expect to be the imminent arrival of the club’s 55th league crown.
Morelos then provided the fireworks on the field as he bundled home his 14th goal of the season after Stryjek spilled a Davis shot at his feet.