Scotland's European Championship qualifying campaign began in Lithuania this evening with a pretty reasonable performance but a disappointing 0-0 result. The Scots dominated the game overall, but Kenny Miller looked lonely up front for for significant periods of the second half, and James McFadden, held back as an 'impact player', was unable to work a piece of magic for the visitors in his 22 minutes on the pitch.
The other decision that may surprise observers was the non-appearance of Kris Boyd, given that Scotland consistently lacked punch up front. the Scots looked solid at the back, albeit against lower level opposition, but failed to create and take chances, even when the Lithuanians visibly tired. Steven Naismith had two of the best chances on 59 and 77 minutes for the Scots, but the Rangers player hesitated at crucial moments. Lack of decisive quality and good first-touches in and around the box ended up being the crucial factor, indeed.
In his post-match interview, manager Craig Levein (a figure well known here in Edinburgh) complained about persistent niggling fouls from Lithuania. The referee certainly seemed too tolerant at times, but the the Scots, despite their good shape and structure, failed to capitalise on their superiority. It's as simple as that.
On a personal footnote: it was great to see a Scotland match on terrestrial television after many years living in England, where the other home nations are largely ignored. If it was not for a work trip out of the country I would certainly have been at Hampden next Tuesday (7 September) for the game against Liechtenstein, well beaten by Spain tonight. As to the outcome of the group, the Czech Republic could yet hold the key.