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.