Saturday, 8 October 2011

Back on the tortured path

Having watched Scotland's last three games (the friendly against Denmark, and the Euro-qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Lithuania) at Hampden Park, this evening I'm settling down in front of the television with thousands of other hopeful souls as the Scots take on Liechtenstein at the Rheinpark Stadion.

Greetings to all my friends in Vaduz. I'll be commenting on the action as it develops, in between biting my nails. The BBC's live stream is here.

The team line-ups are as follows:  Liechtenstein - Jehle, Ritzberger, Kaufmann, Martin Stocklasa, Rechsteiner, Martin Buchel, Hanselmann, Nicolas Hasler, Polverino, Beck, Frick. Subs: Benjamin Buchel, Eberle, Michael Stocklasa, Flatz, Niklas Kieber, Wolfgang Kieber, Bicer. Scotland - McGregor, Hutton, Berra, Caldwell, Bardsley, Morrison, Adam, Fletcher, Bannan, Naismith, Mackail-Smith. Subs: Marshall, Goodwillie, Robson, Cowie, Wallace, Whittaker, Forrest.

What are we going to witness, I wonder? A big test for Craig Mackail-Smith, for sure. It has to be an attacking stance, too. As Scott Booth has observed on BBC Radio Scotland: "If we can look confident and take the game to them, I think we can create chances. Getting an early goal is a key thing."

18:31  A lively start, and also good to see that the Liechtenstein anthem was respected, despite being set to the same tune as 'God Save the Queen'. The pitch doesn't look good.

18:41  Charlie Adam's free kick finds Steven Naismith, who gets a head-flick to the cross. But his effort slips wide. Mackail-Smith has also had a couple of chances. Positive from Scotland, but no real signs of the much needed breakthrough yet.  I think we're going to win, but probably only by a goal.

18:49  A great shot from Thomas Beck of Liechtenstein, and an equally fine save from Allan McGregor in the Scotland goal. The midfield are focussed on moving the ball upfield, but they looked dozy at the back.  Mackail-Smith hits back, but he is caught offside. (Note the the BBC commentator: Brighton is not in the Midlands).

18:55  Having rounded the 'keeper, Naismith should have done much better than hitting the ball into the side-netting. Then Barry Bannan comes close.

19:03  Goal for Scotland! Craig Mackail-Smith heads over the oncoming Jehle, who has looked good so far. A crucial lead.

19:46  Well into the second half, and Scotland look comfortably in control. But they are not turning chances into more goals. Phil Bardsley has just missed a chance provided by Bannan's sweeping cross. Things are looking safe at the moment, but it only takes one slip to put the Scots in danger.

20:00  Nineteen minutes plus time added on to go, as  Liechtenstein make their first substitution. James Forrest is on for Bannan for Scotland. It's going to get very tense unless Scotland can claim another goal.

20:03  Another Liechtenstein substitution. I expect David Goodwillie to be on for Scotland shortly, probably for Naismith. But first it's Cowie for Adam. Keep the ball up the park, lads. Don't try to sit back deep on a 1-0 lead at this stage. (I can see that assistant coach Peter Houston agrees with me!)

20:10  Seven minutes plus left. This is a workmanlike performance against relatively low-grade, if well-organised, opposition. But Spain are going to be a different proposition altogether on Tuesday night.

20:14  Not exactly elegant viewing or a beautiful game, but if the job is done we will all be content. The bagpipes and drums sound out from the 2,000 Scotland supporters. With all the flags and banners, it almost looks like a home game.

20:18  Great attempts by Naismith and Christophe Berra, and excellent saves once more from Jehle. Three minutes time to be added on for stoppages.

20: 21  That's it, all over. Phew! 

Final score:  Liechtenstein 0 -v- Scotland 1.

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