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Tuesday, 14 November 2017 18:54

Clinical Ukraine ease past sorry Scots

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Injury time goals in either half consigned Scotland U21’s to their second defeat of the qualifying campaign. Andriy Boryachuk tapped in from close range at the end of the first half, and Viktor Kovalenko finished the game with a classy finish late on.Ross McCrorie and Dom Thomas came into the Scotland starting line-up, with Scott Wright dropping to the bench, and John Souttar missing out completely.

It was a bright start from the Scots, with Greg Taylor’s cutback being worked to Chris Cadden, who saw his effort blocked behind for a corner.
Both sides cancelled each other out in the opening stages.

Ukraine’s first sight at goal came from Olexander Zinchenko, but his pop-shot deflected harmlessly over. Scott McKenna picked up a yellow card for a foul on Artem Besedin after the half hour mark.

Ukraine took the lead right on half time, when a cross from the right took a wicked deflection off Alan Campbell, giving Andriy Boryachuk the simplest of tap-ins.

Friday, 10 November 2017 17:24

Hero Hardie spares sloppy Scotland's blushes

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An injury time penalty from Ryan Hardie spared Scotland’s blushed as they were held to a draw by 10-man Latvia at McDairmid Park. Roberts Uldrikis headed the visitors ahead in first half injury time, and they were reduced to 10-man when Ingars Stuglis cleaned out Chris Cadden midway through the first half. But Hardie showed nerves of steel to convert the late penalty that takes Scotland one point clear of the Netherlands in Group Four with a game in hand.
 
There were two changes to the Scotland side that won 2-0 against Latvia a month ago. Captain Oli Burke dropped out completely, and Dom Thomas was on the bench. Aberdeen’s Scott Wright and Barnsley’s Stevie Mallan came into the side, with John Souttar taking the armband.
 
Lewis Morgan’s effort brought a save out of Kristaps Zommers after two early corners were dealt with by the Latvian rear-guard. Oli McBurnie turned Morgan’s cutback into Scott Wright’s path, but the Aberdeen man mishit the shot, and Latvia cleared.
 
Morgan was the architect of the Scot’s next chance after 25 minutes, when he set up McBurnie with a clever back heel on the edge of the box, but Kriss Karklins got a foot to the striker’s shot before it could cause any problems for Zommers.
 
Floodlight failure meant a prolonged break in play, but Scotland continued pressing forward when the light returned. Stevie Mallan fizzed an effort wide from 25 yards. Liam Smith sent in a tantalising ball from the right, but an unmarked Wright hesitated, and the ball went out for a goal kick.
 
McBurnie did well to power his way into the box and bring a smart save out of Zommers. The resulting corner saw Scott McKenna enter the book for a foul on Ingars Stuglis. It was the second time that McKenna had headed the Latvian rather than the ball.
 
Despite offering little of an attacking threat, Latvia took the lead in the sixth minute of added on time, when Raivis Jurkovis headed against the crossbar, leaving the unmarked Roberts Uldrikis the simple task of heading into an empty net, despite the best efforts of Ryan Fulton.
Wednesday, 06 September 2017 12:53

Scotland stun Netherlands to open Euro campaign

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They only needed a moment, and in the second half it arrived. It came from another dangerous set piece. Swung into the box, it wasn’t cleared and then it broke, invitingly, to the captain and star of this Under 21s team. Oliver Burke didn’t need another invitatitation. Instead he smashed the ball high into the net from six yards out. It was the breakthrough the game needed and suddenly Scotland had lift off, a dream start to their Euro qualifying campaign, but in the unlikeliest of circumstances; a comprehensive and well deserved 2-0 win over the highly rated Netherlands.  
 
“It’s the perfect start”, Burke said afterwards. “The first goal was vital to winning the game. I’m obviously very happy to score it myself but I wouldn’t have done that without the hard work of the team.”
 
It’s true. The first goal was vital. Before it, Scotland and their opponents were locked in a stalemate, battling against each other in a game of few chances or opportunities. This may have been their first match of their qualifying campaign, but from the offset it was clear that Scotland were determined to win. 
 
In front of a decent crowd of 2,747 at the Paisley 2021 Stadium, Scotland set out to frustrate the Dutch. Off the ball Scotland were tight and compact, Burke and strike partner Dominic Thomas led from the front and behind them sat two resolute banks of four. 
 
For a while the Dutch couldn’t get out and resorted to playing the ball long, something that would have delighted Scotland coach Scot Gemmill. When the Dutch did get through, Scotland’s centre backs John Souttar and Scott McKenna were alert to the danger. Only once did the visitors seriously threatened and thankfully for Scotland Steven Bergwijn’s rising first time shot from inside the area smashed against the post. 
 
Scotland had just as many, if not more, opportunities. They looked especially dangerous from set pieces, with Stephen Mallan and Thomas providing excellent service from corners and free kicks. Souttar should have done much better from an inswinging Thomas corner early in the game, but, unmarked at the back post, he couldn’t keep his volley down.  
 
On Scotland’s left, St Mirren’s Lewis Morgan was looking comfortable playing at his home ground. He seemed to be Scotland’s biggest danger from open play, and created an opportunity for himself thanks to his pace and dribbling. After taking on his defender on the wing, Morgan turned back on to his left and was unlucky as his shot fired just wide of the far post.  
 
Scotland Under 16s rounded off a perfect week of international friendlies with a 2-0 win over Uruguay on Saturday afternoon in Edinburgh. 
 
The result means that Brian McLaughlin’s side finish their international tournament in 1st place, following victories over Qatar and England earlier in the week. 
 
It has been a hugely impressive and successful week for the young Scots, who have won all three of their games without conceding a single goal. 
 
“This week has been about the whole team”, said Scotland manager McLaughlin afterwards. “If you look at the way we play, we defend as a team and we go forward as a team.
 
“We spoke this week about wanting to play our game, our style, no matter what was happening, and 2-0 up with two minutes to go they were still doing that. The boys didn't want to let anyone down and they haven't. They've been absolutely incredible.”
 
Scotland’s success this week has been built on an determination to be in control, and to play the way they want to play. They have looked to dominate the ball and play out from the back whenever possible. Most of their best moments this week have followed a spell of positive, possession football. 
 
Again against Uruguay Scotland looked to do just that, with Jensen Weir sitting in front of the back four aiming to move the ball from side to side. Scotland had chances early on with Andrew Winter, Karamoko Dembele and Ben Cameron all going close.  
 
But there wasn’t a lot to split the teams going into half time. Uruguay had threatened themselves and it required a couple of vital, last ditch challenges from Jamie Hamilton as well as a save or two from goalkeeper Robbie Hemfrey. 

Scotland continued their good international form with a well-fought win over their southern neighbours in Stirling. This may have been another clash with the auld enemy but this match was definitely about the new vein of players and how both nations compared to each other in 2017.

Forget your Gemmells, Shearers and Dalglishs, this was a chance to see what players were destined to take their places in English and Scottish history books. The passion was still there, though, just like any other game between the two sides at any age group. This was clear as both teams sung their national anthems with pride ahead of the match, this was patriotism in the form of sport.

England kicked off and made sure to press high up the pitch and make this Scotland back line react with tetchy clearances and mistakes on the ball. England found most of their initial attacking threats through the left back Matthew Bondswell as Scotland’s Cameron Logan often sat too narrow allowing Bondswell a lot of space to easily collect the diagonal balls played to him and run at the backtracking Logan, often causing problems for the centre backs who would have to clear with last-ditch tackles to keep the scores level.

Bondswell was booked on six minutes after slicing Cameron Logan from behind which allowed Scotland to slow the pace down and get involved in the game which eventually resulted in them winning a free kick on the left wing.

The ball was chipped by Connor Smith to the back post where miraculously Cole Starrs, Josh Grigor and the captain Ben Cameron were all unmarked but Starrs’ header was tame and Harvey Collins in the England goal collected with ease.

Just as the first half was drawing to a close, England’s Rafael Garcia, who had in truth struggled to be effective in the game up to this point, took a pass from the left and was dragged to the floor by Ben Cameron just inside the box as Garcia attempted to shift the ball onto his right foot.

The referee Colin Steven pointed to the spot and Tottenham’s Nonso Madeuke stepped up to take the penalty just before half time. Madeuke’s side stepping run aimed to confuse Jack Newman in the Scotland goal but the ‘keeper confidently leaped to his bottom left to tip the shot wide and then stood tall to block Alexander Mightem’s rebound effort. An excellent display from Newman to round off a fairly even first half. 

Scotland Under 16s kicked off their series of international friendlies with a comfortable 7-0 victory over Qatar in Edinburgh.

First half goals from Andrew Winter and Cole Starrs put the hosts in a commanding position going into the break.

The Scots continued to dominate in the second half, Starrs grabbed his second and Scotland’s third before substitute Karamoko Dembele scored one and set up three goals, two for Michael Sparkes and one for Jamie Hamilton.

Playing possession football and keeping the ball is one of Scotland manager Brian McLaughlin’s key objectives for this week, and his players looked to do just that straight from kick off.

In the middle of the park Reece McAlear and Jensen Weir gave Scotland a physical edge over their opponents, and quickly established the control needed to dictate the pace of the game.

After a patient start, Scotland found some space and struck. Left back Liam Miller’s burst into the middle of the pitch and through ball to Winter opened up Qatar’s defence. Winter controlled on his left before opening his body and passing the ball into the far corner.

Scotland’s second came from a similar position. Captain Connor Smith cut in from the left before playing splitting the Qatar defence with a reverse ball to Winter. The Hamilton forward got to the pass just ahead of Qatar keeper Yousef Abdullah Balideh, who crashed into Winter’s standing leg and brought him down.

Starrs stepped up to take the spot kick. His low shot to the left struck the post but fortunately rebounded straight back to his feet. After adjusting his body Starrs guided the ball high into the net.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017 20:37

Scotland beat Switzerland to reach Euro 2017

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Scotland booked their place at the Euro 2017 finals in Croatia this summer with a battling win over Switzerland.

In a scrappy game with few clear cut chances, a Glenn Middleton penalty midway through the first half was enough to see the Scots over the line and qualify for the Euros for a fourth successive time.

With Scotland only needing a point to secure qualification, they were content to let Switzerland have the ball in their own half and applied pressure only when the Swiss crossed the halfway line.

As a result Switzerland dominated possession and sought to dictate the game, with their quick and skilful midfield knocking it around comfortably.

However it was fifteen minutes before they threatened, when attacking midfielder Alexis Antunes pickpocketed Daniel Church on halfway and broke forward. He worked the ball to Miraelm Amzi on the edge of the box and he flashed a shot just wide.

Amzi was at it again just a minute later but again could not find the target from a similar distance.

Switzerland then came extremely close to opening the scoring on 19 minutes. A ball over the top caused confusion between Josh Donaldson in the Scotland goal and his defence. The ball fell to Amzi who rounded Donaldson and hit a low shot on goal, but it was brilliantly blocked on the line by Robbie Deas.

It was a warning Scotland heeded as they looked to create some chances of their own. They did so when full-back Church was given the ball on 22 minutes out left and drove forward, beating two players before digging out a cross.

The ball was allowed to bounce by the Swiss defence and hit Elis Isufi on the arm, which Polish referee Krzysztof Jakubik deemed a penalty despite the defender’s protests.

It was perhaps a harsh decision, made worse for the Swiss when Norwich striker Middleton stepped up and dispatched the penalty emphatically to bag his fourth goal of the Elite Qualifying Round.

Switzerland almost got themselves level just before half-time but Ruben Del Campo headed over from close range after some good work from full-back Busset.

Scotland have one foot in the European Under-17 Championships following a 1-0 win over Serbia at St Mirren Park. Glenn Middleton’s goal midway through the first half was enough to give the home side the victory in a tight match with chances few and far between.

The game got off to a slow start, both sides struggling to get a good passing move together. Scotland’s front three of Middleton, Jack Aitchison, and Zak Rudden were playing too close together, all being dragged down the Serbian’s left. Rudden, who was playing wide right, was forced deep often to cover the runs of Dimitrije Kamenovic and Zeljko Gavric.

It took 17 minutes for either side to register an effort on goal, and it was Serbia’s Filip Stuparevic with a shot over the bar from outside the area. But just as Serbia looked to be making headway into the Scotland half, they were hit by a quick counter attack which proved to be devastating.

The pacey Middleton was involved in breaking away and winning a corner and when Elliot Watt sent it deep to the back post, Kerr McInroy had the time and presence of mind to bring it down and pick out Middleton on the edge of the box. A touch to open up his body and make the space and another to find the bottom corner past Milos Gordic. 1-0. It was his second goal in two matches following his effort against Montenegro on Friday.

Serbia almost caught Scotland cold from the restart, Stuparevic getting only the slightest of touches to Milutin Vidosavljevic’s cross and failing to find the net from a little over six-yards.

Having avoided the scare, Scotland managed to carve a couple of half chances themselves. McInroy blazed over after Rudden’s driving run had opened up Serbia’s defence, and Middleton forced a good save from Gordic after the Scot’s winger’s pace had put him through.

Crosses seemed to be Serbia’s most likely route to goal and they had their best opportunity of the match just before half-time when Gavric’s cross found Kamenovic, the full-back covering a large amount of ground to put himself in a position to equalise, but he somehow contrived to put it over the bar, the Scottish defence deserving credit for putting him off.

After losing their Centenary Shield opener to England, Scotland ran out emphatic winners at Newtown with a 5-1 victory over Wales. 

The home side kicked off in stormy conditions, however were immediately placed on the back foot by a Scotland side out to prove themselves after a disappointing result against current holders England.

Five different scorers found the net for the away side to cap off an impressive and much-needed victory. The side dominated both halves as they aim for an elusive Centenary Shield, having last won the competition outright in 2000.

As the wind and rain continued to fall in the opening stages of a frantic affair, Calvin McGrory was unfazed as he lobbed an excellent through ball into the path of Declan Glass. Glass, reaching the ball and gathering under control, then ventured on an excellent run as he twisted and turned past a worrying Wales defence. Glass eased past two defenders with clever feet and forced a good save from Jack Atkinson in the Wales net. The home side's number one however could only parry the ball to the feet of the well positioned Matthew Reilly, who did well to finish from a tight angle to provide the first goal of the game.

Less than five minutes later a quick free-kick at the back caught Wales out, with the ball finding the feet of Glass once again. The dangerous attacker turned sharply before running at the Wales defence, and on this occasion his efforts paid off as his 25-yard strike found the bottom corner. 

Five minutes later however the home side were right back in it, when Callum Saunders whipped in a dangerous free-kick from well outside the box. The number 8's left-footed strike somehow evaded both sets of players and rolled into the bottom corner past a helpless Ross Connelly in the Scotland net. Wales now found themselves on the front foot as they pushed for an equaliser, which almost arrived through Keane Watts, whose header went narrowly wide after excellent build up play in the Welsh midfield.

Just before the half hour mark however the Scots dented any hopes of a Welsh comeback as Captain Kyle Banner's effort squeezed under Atkinson and into the back of the net. The away side bagged their fourth just minutes later when the impressive Euan O'Reilly once again proved his ability with a dangerous attack down the right. The winger's fantastic composure and low cross found the feet of Adam Brown, who controlled with ease and turned expertly before firing into the gaping goal.

Saturday, 18 March 2017 00:47

Six goal Scots off to flyer against Montenegro

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Scotland made an ideal start to this year’s UEFA Elite group, as they saw off Montenegro in swashbuckling style at St Mirren Park. How refreshing it was to see a Scotland side playing attractive passing football, and scoring some sensational goals into the bargain.
 
Scott Gemmill’s side had defeated reigning under-17 champions Portugal in September to qualify for the elite round and be seeded to host Montenegro, Switzerland and Serbia. Based on recent form the young Scots are ranked 6th in Europe at this level, and in Paisley they lived up to their billing in emphatic style.
 
Ahead of the matches, head coach Scot Gemmill had stressed the importance of the forthcoming games and said: “This is definitely the most important week of the season for the players as they have worked very hard to get themselves into this position.
 
“A lot of countries don’t manage to get to this stage and it’s important the players realise how important it is.
 
“Playing at home will be a boost for us. The last time we played an Elite Round in Scotland we qualified so it’s worked in the past.
 
“This is a great group of players who are playing at a high level at their clubs and they’ve shown they can compete against the best on an international stage so it’s up to us to keep up those high levels of performance.”
 
After surviving an early scare when their opponents struck the bar, the Scots were 3 up and cruising by half time, their first goal a thunderbolt from Jack Aitchison from the edge of the D on 10 minutes. They never really looked back, with the Celtic striker helping himself to another goal, and Glenn Middleton chipping in with his own second half brace. The two had given the Montenegro defence a torrid night of it, with no answer to their deadly pace and finishing in the final third.
 
Montenegro were not coping with the threat from early in the first half and it set the platform for wave after wave of Scots attacks. The second goal arrived on 17 minutes as Church got down the left to pick out Zak Rudden in the box to head home from close range.
 
But there wasn’t much visiting defenders could do about goal number three. After some intricate build up play Seb Ross laid the ball off for Kerr McInroy on the edge of the box and his left foot drive found Vukic’s corner with just half an hour played.
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