Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Hanging On...

World Cup Qualifying Group 9, Hampden: Scotland 2 Macedonia 0

Well, they’re not out of it, but they are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Scotland struggled for large parts of the first half but wound up dominating and could really have piled on the goals, but for some poor choices in the final third.

Macedonia started brightly, were tidy in possession and could have scored, through Lazio’s Pandev and Naumoski. Gordon made crucial saves each time. The turning point of the match happened just before half time when one too many of the Macedonians went down injured. At the drop ball, Scott Brown heavily struck the ball out of play off of one of the Macedonia players, forcing a corner. At this point, the Macedonian’s and the Referee Wolfgang Stark loose the plot. The game had been threatening to do this, there was a large confab about 20 minutes in, but the majority of the Macedonians wanted at Brown (pictured). In the aftermath, James McFadden was, rather mystifyingly booked, which rules him out of the game against the Netherlands.

Scotland started the second half by changing from a 4-3-3 to 4-4-2, and looked the more solid team for it. Scotland were creating chances when the goal came, Miller had missed a chance moments earlier, while McFadden went past 2 defenders then contrived not to score. The goal came from some good Scotland possession down their left which culminated in a cross from Steven Fletcher, and of all the people to score it had to be Scott Brown with the deftest of headers to deflect the ball to the far side. Scotland then dominated the match particularly down the left as Whittaker has a couple of chances, McFadden had a chance too, cutting in from the right to put past the post.

Macedonia had a couple of counter-punches before they gave the ball away for the second goal. Under pressure from a Scotland defender, the ball broke to McFadden who ran half the length of the Hampden pitch before rounding the keeper and scoring his first competitive Scotland goal since scoring against Ukraine nearly 2 years ago.

This leaves Scotland in the box seat to claim second place in the group, tomorrow Macedonia and Norway go head to head in a winner takes at least third place tie. Scotland however have a much more difficult task in that they have to beat the Netherlands’ just to have a chance of making it to the playoffs.

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