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Scotland 1 Macedonia 1: match report

Roddy Forsyth

10:01PM BST 11 Sep 2012


Home is where the hurt is for Scotland as they contemplate failure to win either of their two opening World Cup qualifiers, both of which were scheduled for Hampden Park to give Craig Levein the best opportunity of quarrying reward at the start of a daunting campaign.

Not only could they not impose themselves on stubborn and inventive opponents, but the Scots had to recover from the concession of an early goal to Nikoclhe Noveski to edge an equaliser through Kenny Miller just before the break.

Small comfort might be gleaned from the 1-1 draw between Belgium and Croatia but, in truth, Scottish hopes of qualification are already frail.

The jeers that followed Scotland off the Hampden field at the end of their weekend draw with Serbia were reprised at half time after Noveski’s opener and they would have been louder but for Miller’s leveller just before the break. Craig Levein had made three changes to the team that started against Serbia, with Charlie Adam, Robert Snodgrass and Steven Naismith all dropped to the bench and replaced respectively by Shaun Maloney, James Forrest and Jamie Mackie.

It was no surprise that Jordan Rhodes had been left on the bench but it was certainly a revelation to see that Macedonia’s hunger and aggression clearly exceeded that of the Scots in the opening exchanges.

The Tartan Army had been less exercised by chorusing Rhodes’s name, as they had done in the second half on Saturday than celebrating their new hero, Andy Murray.

However, praise of the US Open tennis champion was soon replaced by excoriation of Scotland’s lethargy as Macedonia forced the first of the four corner kicks they would claim before the break, the consequence of a deflected shot from Agim Ibraimi. Alarmingly, the Scots were clumsy and slow to deal with the delivery from Ivan Trichkovski.

That danger was finally smothered but when Trichkovski was next in action around the Scottish box, he helped inflict painful damage.

The problem began on the Scots’ left where Paul Dixon, man of the match against Serbia, looked uncomfortable against the powerful, thrusting runs of the Macedonian right back, Daniel Georgievski, who eluded the Huddersfield full back and hung a deep and dangerous cross towards the back post, where Alan Hutton had to head behind for safety.

Again Scotland could not defend the corner kick adequately and from the initial clearance Trichkovski played a return ball with Goran Pandev – an individual who was proving very troublesome to the home team – and then turned a cutback across the six yard line for Noveski to tap home past Allan McGregor.

The Scottish back line protested correctly that Noveski had been offside but the goal stood and Hampden was enveloped in gloom. The possibility of a calamitous result was now a reality for Levein and his squad and, indeed, the prospect of a deeply depressing evening increased when McGregor – coming off his line to clutch a header back from Andy Webster – left a boot trailing to catch the onrushing Mirko Ivanovski, an offence that went undetected, luckily for the Beskitas man.

The goalkeeper, though was on his mettle when he bolted out to block a close range drive from Muhamed Demitri after Pandev had shrugged off challenges from Hutton and Maloney to set his colleague free.

Scotland desperately needed a moment of inspiration and they got it just in time to raise their spirits in the dressing room. Two minutes before the break James Morrison gathered possession near the halfway line and drilled a pass down the inside right channel for Mackie to take at the gallop and bear down on goal.

The fans howled at the QPR forward to shoot and groaned when he drew back, but Mackie had spotted Miller making a blindside run beyond the edge of the retreating Macedonian back four and curled a beckoning ball beyond the defenders for Scotland’s top scorer to ne3t his 17th goal in 62 appearances for his country.

That took the sting out of the crowd’s reaction to the half time whistle but Macedonia declined to become compliant after the break and McGregor twice more saved the day, first when he hurled himself at the feet of Georgievski when the defender produced another of his immense surges along most of the length of the pitch.

His next intervention was to deny Ivanovski when the Macedonian striker was put through one on one with the former Rangers favourite, although even McGregor’s instincts were of no avail when Ferhan Hasani, a first half substitute for Macedonia, crashed a venomous drive off the left-hand post.

Scotland (4-1-4-1): McGregor; Hutton, Webster, Berra, Dixon; Caldwell; Forrest, Maloney, Morrison (Rhodes 66), Mackie (Naismith 77); Miller (Adam 58).
Subs Marshall (g), Samson (g), Hanley, Snodgrass, Cowie, Dorrans, McCormack, Foster, Phillips.
Booked Adam
Scorer Miller 43

Macedonia (4-4-1-1): Bogatinov; Georgievski, Sikov, Noveski, Popov; Ibraimi (Tasevski 89), Gligorov (Sumulikoski 70), Demiri, Trichkovski (Hasani 37); Pandev; Ivanovski. Subs Pacovski (g), Naumovski (g), Mojsov, Grncarov, Ristic, Lazevski, Georgiev, . Booked Hasani, Ibraimi, Gligorov, Sumulikoski, Pandev
Scorer Noveski 11
Referee Sergei Karasev (Russia) Attendance 32,430

Taken from

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