Ricky Sbragia’s side saw their slim hopes of making it to the European Championship in Poland reach virtually impossible on Friday night, as Macedonia edged out 1-0 winners on a dramatic night at Tynecastle. With red cards, disallowed goals and interesting decisions the order of the day. Despite a wave of attacks and a late onslaught on the Macedonian goal, Kire Markoski’s first half strike was enough to give the visitors three points to add to their qualifying campaign.
Scotland started the game on the front foot, and Ryan Fraser, who is now enjoying a spell in the starting XI at Bournemouth, wasn’t wasting any time in trying to get his name on the scoresheet, as his second minute daisy-cutter drifted just wide of goalkeeper Aleksovski’s near post.
Stephen Kingsley went close just three minutes later. After picking up the ball from around 30 yards out, he assessed his options, and attempted to catch out the Macedonian number one with a fierce effort on his left foot, but Alexsovski was equal to it, clawing it away from the top left corner spectacularly and leaving the Scots with a corner, which nothing came of.
Scotland were applying a lot of pressure early on, but to the visitor’s credit, they stood strong and were able to withstand anything thrown their way, despite seeing very little of the ball in the early proceedings of the contest. They nearly ended up scoring with their first opening, as Marjan Radeski was played through and looked to have just Liam Kelly in goals to beat, but he must have struggled to spot the rampaging John Souttar, who threw himself into, and won, a crucial tackle to prevent a great opportunity for Macedonia. A huge risk if it didn’t come off, but the Hearts defender got it spot-on.
It didn’t put off the Macedonians just five minutes later though, if anything, it offered encouragement. Radeski was once again in the middle of things, as his pass was not dealt with by the Scots defence, and Markoski struck in a low shot from inside the box and silencing the 4,500 plus crowd in Edinburgh. The home side seemed affected by that strike, and Radeski nearly doubled his side’s lead a few minutes later, if it wasn’t for another great Souttar intervention.
Scotland’s performance in the period after that goal seemed to mirror Macedonia’s before it; rushed, and unable to keep a hold of the ball. But the Scots finished the half in good form, with Cummings and Slater both being denied on several occasions from Alekovski who was keeping his side in the match at this stage, with Ryan Christie and Ryan Gauld both instrumental in carving open those chances. Despite this, Macedonia went into the break with the lead.