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Scotland World Cup hopes ended by Slovenia

Published in World Cup
Monday, 09 October 2017 07:27

World Cup Qualification, UEFA Group F, Sportni park Stozice - Slovenia 2 (Bezjak 52', 72') Scotland 2 (Griffiths 32', Snodgrass 88')

Scotland fell agonisingly short in their efforts to make the World Cup play-offs, conceding a first-half lead to draw 2-2 away to Slovenia, missing out on second place through goal difference.
Gordon Strachan's men needed a win to make sure of finishing second in Group F, with Slovakia beating Malta, but narrowly missed out despite a breathless finale in a remarkable qualification comeback over the past few games.
Gordon Strachan made a bold team selection, dropping James Forrest and James Morrison in favour of James McArthur and Chris Martin, opting for two up front. Scotland looked uncomfortable in their shape early on as Slovenia dominated possession, but the dynamic of the contest changed with a Leigh Griffiths goal after 32 minutes, with the Celtic striker finding the far corner with an excellent finish.

However, a double change at the break gave Slovenia renewed impetus, with the hosts equalising through substitute Bezjak, who headed a free-kick back across goal and into the far corner of Craig Gordon’s net.
And Slovenia took the lead after 72 minutes, with Bezjak once again finding the net. Robert Snodgrass found a late equaliser to set up a grandstand finish, but Scotland just couldn’t find the goal they so desperately needed, even after the sending off of Bostjan Cesar. Ultimately, this was another case of glorious failure.

TALKING POINT - What happened to Scotland in the second half?

At half-time, Scotland were in the perfect position. They hadn’t played especially well, but they had a 1-0 lead after Griffiths’ opener. From that point on, though, everything went wrong. Strachan set up his side too negatively, taking off Martin and throwing on Ikechi Anya after the equaliser. That robbed Scotland of an outlet, inviting yet more pressure on top of themselves that ultimately resulted in another Slovenia goal. When it mattered most, their tactics were all wrong.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Josip Ilicic (Slovenia)

He was identified as the danger man for Slovenia before kick off, and Josip Ilicic lived up to his billing. The playmaker was at the centre of everything well the hosts did, especially in the first half. Scotland didn’t know how to deal with him as he drifted between the lines of midfield and attack. Bezjak might have grabbed the goals, but Ilicic was the man who created them.
PLAYER RATINGS

Slovenia - Oblak 6, Cesar 5, Ilicic 8, Kurtic 6, Matavz 5, Jokic 6, Mevlja 6, Rotman 7, Repas 6, Verbic 5, Struna 6. Subs - Bezjak 8, Skubic 5, Vetrih 5.

Scotland - Gordon 5, Tierney 6, Mulgrew 5, Berra 6, Robertson 6, D.Fletcher 7, McArthur 5, Bannan 5, Phillips 5, Martin 6, Griffiths 7. Subs - Anya 5, Snodgrass 6, S.Fletcher 5.

KEY MOMENTS

32’ GOAL! Slovenia 0-1 Scotland: Scotland have a crucial lead! It was an extremely tight angle for Griffiths, but he let the ball drop and angled a strike across the face of goal and into the far corner of the net.
42’ GRIFFITHS INJURY! This could be a real issue for Scotland. Griffiths appears to have picked up an injury and is hobbling over to the touchline to receive some treatment. Calf?

55’ GOAL! Slovenia 1-1 Scotland: Well, there's the equaliser and Scotland are going to have to do this the hard way. Bezjak got in behind the Scotland defence from a free-kick and headed past Gordon into the far corner.

72’ GOAL! Slovenia 2-1 Scotland: Is that the goal to finish off Scotland? The away side don't defend a corner kick well enough, with the ball played back to Bezjak. The sub made no mistake in passing into the net.
78’ FLETCHER SHOULD HAVE SCORED! That was the chance for Scotland to get back on level terms! The ball fell nicely to Fletcher eight yards out, but he sliced his effort over the bar.

88’ GOAL! Slovenia 2-2 Scotland: OUT OF NOWHERE! Scotland have scored a late equaliser, but they need another one! Snodgrass got on the end of it to prod high into the corner of the net.

92’ SENT OFF! I'm not entirely sure what's happened, but Cesar has been shown a straight red card.

KEY STATS

Leigh Griffiths has been involved in seven goals in his last five internationals for Scotland (four goals, three assists).

Slovenia conceded a goal at home for the first time in this World Cup qualification campaign.

Late Martin Skrtel own-goal sends Scotland second

Published in World Cup
Friday, 06 October 2017 08:16

World Cup Qualification Group F, Hampden Park - Scotland 1 (Skrtel OG 89') Slovakia 0

Scotland took a gigantic step towards the 2018 World Cup by beating 10-man Slovakia, with Martin Skrtel’s own goal just two minutes from the end giving Gordon Strachan’s side a dramatic 1-0 win.

For so long, it looked like yet another tale of glorious failure for the Dark Blues, with Slovakian goalkeeper Martin Dubravka pulling off save after save to prevent the hosts from taking the lead, even after the visitors were reduced to 10 men following a dive by Robert Mak.
With both Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong missing through injury, Darren Fletcher, Barry Bannan and James Morrison started in the centre of midfield, but it wasn’t until the introduction of Chris Martin in the second half that Scotland took a firm grip of the contest, with both Martin and Leigh Griffiths striking the bar.

And it was Martin who forced home the winning goal from a cross by Ikechi Anya, with Skrtel diverting the ball into his own net on the stretch. The win moves the Scots into second place in Group F with just one game left to play against Slovenia on Sunday.

TALKING POINT

Sunday’s game is now Scotland’s biggest in 10 years. Not since that infamous match against Italy in 2007 have Scotland had a make or break match like the one they will face on Sunday against Slovenia. Win and Strachan’s side will claim a play-off place for the 2018 World Cup. Draw and the chances will be left up to mathematics. Whichever way you look at it, Scotland will now prepare for their biggest match in a long, long time.
MAN OF THE MATCH

Martin Dubravka (Slovakia) For 88 minutes, it looked like Dubravka would effectively knock Scotland out of qualification for the 2018 World Cup. Quite simply, the Slovakian goalkeeper had the game of his life. He pulled of astonishing save after astonishing save, even riding his luck when Scotland crashed a shot off the crossbar twice. Were it not for Dubravka, Scotland would have won this match comfortably.

PLAYER RATINGS

Scotland - Gordon 6, Tierney 7, Mulgrew 5, Berra 6, Robertson 7, D.Fletcher 6, Morrison 5, Bannan 7, Forrest 7, Griffiths 7, Phillips 5. Subs - McArthur 5, Martin 7, Anya 6.

Slovakia - Dubravka 9, Pekarik 5, Skrtel 6, Durica 7, Gregus 6, Nemec 5, Hubocan 6, Hamsik 8, Kucka 6, Mak 3, Lobotka 7. Subs - Weiss 5, Gyomber 5, Duda 5.

KEY MOMENTS

8’ PENALTY SHOUT! Tierney drives down the outside, forcing his way into the Slovakian penalty box. He is forced to the ground but the referee waves away his claims for a penalty. There was a case there.

25’ SENT OFF! Mak has been shown a second yellow card for taking a dive. Indeed, the replays show that he threw himself to the ground trying to win a penalty from Gordon. Right decision.
61’ BIG SAVE FROM GORDON! Gregus had space down the right channel, hitting it first time. But the Scotland goalkeeper stood tall and made the save with his feet to deny him.

76’ OFF THE BAR! I can't believe it! Griffiths has hit the crossbar! Scotland are hammering on the door now. He struck the freekick from about 20 yards out but crashed the ball off the woodwork!

77’ WHAT A SAVE! Morrison had the chance of the game from a matter of yards out, but Dubravka makes an incredible save! Everyone in Hampden thought that was the breakthrough!

88’ GOAL! Scotland 1-0 Slovakia: SCOTLAND HAVE SCORED! It's gone in! They've finally found the net! Anya got in behind ,getting a cross to the near post! Skrtel forced it home on the stretch under pressure from Martin!
KEY STATS

Craig Gordon becomes only the third Scotland goalkeeper to reach 50 caps, following Jim Leighton (91) and Alan Rough (53).

Harry Kane rescues England in extraordinary finale against Scotland

Published in Football
Sunday, 11 June 2017 09:13

World Cup Qualification Group F, Hampden Park – Scotland 2 (Griffiths 87 90) England 2 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 70, Kane 90+3)

Harry Kane struck in stoppage time to rescue a 2-2 draw for England after late drama in their World Cup qualifier in Scotland.

The Spurs man was named captain for the day and responded with a crucial leveller after Leigh Griffiths' quick-fire free-kick double had turned the game on its head three minutes from time.

Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had looked to have put the visitors on course for victory with a 70th minute solo strike, but the sensational finale means Gareth Southgate's men will be delighted to have come away with a point.

The result sees the Three Lions remain top of Group F after six games played, but their lead was sliced to two points following Slovakia's triumph in Lithuania later on Saturday.

Scotland are currently fourth on eight points, and will feel their hopes of pushing for the runner-up spot and a potential play-off berth were cruelly dented by Kane's late intervention.
TALKING POINT

Harry Kane is still trying to replicate his Spurs form for England - but that goal and the captaincy could be the key. The Spurs hitman has won the past two Premier League Golden Boot awards and finished the season on fire - but he has yet to truly ignite with his country. The 23-year-old has now netted six times in 18 appearances for the Three Lions, but it looked like being another one of those days when he wasted two first-half chances he would have gobbled up in his sleep in his Lilywhites shirt.

History has shown some players just can't recreate their exploits for their club on the international stage, but Kane is unlikely to fall into that bracket and his late strike to save the day may be a significant sign post and see him appointed captain on a permanent basis.
MAN OF THE MATCH

Leigh Griffiths (Scotland): The Celtic man was starved of service throughout but worked tirelessly and looked to have won it with two sensational free kicks late on - his first goals in 13 caps for Scotland.

PLAYER RATINGS

Scotland: Gordon 6, Tierney 7, Berra 6, Mulgrew 7, Robertson 7, Brown 6, Morrison 5, Snodgrass 6, Armstrong 6, Anya 6, Griffiths 8. Subs: McArthur 6, Fraser 6, Martin n/a.

England: Hart 5, Walker 6, Cahill 6, Smalling 6, Bertrand 6, Dier 6, Livermore 7, Rashford 5, Alli 6, Lallana 6, Kane 7. Subs: Oxlade-Chamberlain 7, Sterling n/a, Defoe n/a.
KEY MOMENTS

18' - ENGLAND CHANCE! Dier picks out Kane with a chipped ball into the box, but the England skipper can only rifle over the top after taking it down well and cutting back onto his left foot.

22' - ENGLAND CHANCE! Lallana wriggles free close to the left byline and somehow digs out a lovely cutback for Kane who completely miscues from six yards out.

51' - ENGLAND HIT THE POST! Livermore cross from the right takes a wicked deflection off a defender and comes back off the near post.

70' - GOAL! Scotland 0-1 England. Oxlade Chamberlain makes an instant impact! The Arsenal man jinks in from the right and squeezes a shot through a swarm of bodies and into the net via big hands from Gordon.
87' - GOAL! Scotland 1-1 England. Griffiths steps up and curls a stunning 25-yard free kick beyond Hart and into the far corner of the net.
90' - GOAL! Scotland 2-1 England. Incredible scenes as curves another sublime free kick over the wall and into the opposite corner. Lightning strikes twice!
90+3' - GOAL! Scotland 2-2 England. Kane levels for the Three Lions! Sterling rakes a ball from the left to the far post where Kane arrives to volley home.
KEY STATS

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored his first England goal since October 2015 vs Lithuania - 607 days ago

England are unbeaten in their last five visits to Scotland.

Scotland are unbeaten in their last six home games.

Griffiths scored his first international goals on his 13th cap. They were also the first goals England have conceded in this World Cup qualifying campaign

Kane scored his first goal for England since May 2016, after a run of 575 minutes without one.

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