Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Who will reign after Spain?

Well, it's Alicante and the moment of truth for Scotland tonight. Realistically, there's little chance of claiming points against World Champions Spain. As Pat Nevin has just said on BBC Sportscene, a victory here would be the best result in the Scottish national team's football history. So the weight of Euro-qualification rests heavily on Lithuania's ability to silence the Czech Republic.

Six minutes in and things are looking decidedly grim. 1-0 to Spain. But even worse, the Czechs are 1-0 up in Lithuania through an early penalty. That's the one that really hurts.

8.40  Steven Naismith picks up where he left off in Liechtenstein the other night, missing an opportunity in front of goal.

19.50  The Czech Republic are now 2-0 ahead, courtesy of Jan Rezek (who took a dive to win a penalty at Hampden). Scotland are all but eliminated from the European Championships, with less than a quarter of their own game over. Worse than I imagined. (My wife has ventured the opinion that, "on the positive side", it can't be blamed on whatever happens in Alicante this evening. I've had to explain that, with Scotland and football, there isn't a positive side -- just different kinds of unrelenting misery!)

34.00  To be fair, Scotland are doing pretty well, given the scale of the task. Great move between Naismith and Darren Fletcher, with the Manchester United man just failing to keep the ball down from his strike on goal. Then in a further attacking move, Alan Hutton is caught offside.  An excellent wing move by James Morrison, too.

41.00  Magnificent save by Scotland 'keeper Allan MacGregor, and then, at the other end, a corner from the men in blue and a flashing shot from Charlie Adam. A reasonable shout for a penalty for a push on Gary Caldwell, too. But no-one shouted, and within a minute David Silva had made it 2-0 to Spain with a superb left-foot strike. His second of the evening.

Meanwhile, the Czechs are now 3-0 in front. Game and tournament over.  Congratulations, however, to the Republic of Ireland, who are into the play-offs for Euro 2012 after beating Armenia 2-1.

Meanwhile, in the second half, Scotland have been doing a good job of getting behind the Spanish defence. Substitute David Goodwillie made it 3-1 with a fine, confident penalty -- and then wasted a chance to create a tap-in for Craig Mackail-Smith by blasting over the bar himself. Inexperience or selfishness: one or the other. Perhaps both.

90.00  Christophe Berra has done well at the back, incidentally, and on 74 minutes almost created a second goal with a well-placed header. Morrison could have put Goodwillie through, too. But his intended pass was too well advertised. 

A pretty good Scottish performance overall, despite it being a disappointing evening.

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