Scotland 0 Serbia 0: Lots of huffing and puffing but goalkeepers come out on top
16:28 GMT, 8 September 2012
Scotland are already playing catch-up in their 2014 World Cup qualification campaign after drawing a blank against Serbia in their opening Group A game at Hampden.
The home side certainly had their chances in a wide-open encounter – mostly notably Steven Naismith missed a one-on-one in the second half – but Scotland keeper Allan McGregor had to make vital saves to keep his goal intact.
With Group A favourites Belgium seeing off Wales 2-0 in Cardiff and top seeds Croatia beating Macedonia 1-0 in Zagreb last night, three points at home to Macedonia on Tuesday night are surely a must if Craig Levein's side are to harbour realistic hopes of reaching Brazil in two years time.
Not quite: Kenny Miller could not make the breakthrough
Attempt: Steven Naismith tries to break the deadlock
McGregor, Hutton, Webster, Berra, Dixon, Caldwell, Naismith, Snodgrass
(Forest 69), Adam, Morrison (Mackie 80), Miller (Rhodes 80).
Subs not used: Gilks, Hanley, Maloney, Forrest, Cowie, Dorrans, McCormack, Phillips, Foster, Marshall.
Serbia: Stojkovic, Ivanovic, Bisevac, Nastasic, Kolarov, Mijailovic (Fejsa 45), Tosic, Ninkovic, Ignjovski, Djuricic (Lekic 83), Lazovic (Tadic 56).
Subs not used: Kahriman, Tomovic, Maksimovic, Petrovic, Lukovic, Matic, Subotic, Markovic, Brkic.
Booked: Nastasic, Ninkovic
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden).
There could be no faulting the effort
of the Scotland side who had Huddersfield left-back Paul Dixon making
his debut in the absence of injured Danny Fox, Russell Martin and
Gary Caldwell captained the side in
his 50th appearance, playing in front of the back four while veteran
Kenny Miller was in as the lone striker, supported from the flanks by
Robert Snodgrass and Naismith.
There were several familiar names in
the Serbia side including captain and Chelsea defender Branislav
Ivanovic and Manchester City full-back Aleksandar Kolarov while the
English champions' new 12million signing, Matija Nastasic, was also
included in the visitors' defence.
Nevertheless, optimism abounded in Mount Florida with Hampden almost full to capacity.
The first real piece of action in a
scrappy opening came in the eighth minute when McGregor made a fine save
down at his right-hand post from Kolarov's 25-yard free-kick which
threatened to sneak in.
Oh no: Aleksandar Kolarov reacts to missing a chance
On the prowl: Miller was not on his best form
As the game warmed up Serbia survived
an old-fashioned goalmouth scramble before almost catching the Scots on
the break and indeed it was on the counter that the visitors promised to
inflict some damage.
Scotland began to exert some pressure
and in the 23rd minute, with Kolarov too busy arguing with the linesman
after he had flagged a foul for his challenge on Snodgrass, the Norwich
forward raced on to Charlie Adam's quickly-taken free-kick before
forcing Vladimir Stojkovic in to a decent save from his angled drive.
Moments later, Snodgrass picked up
Caldwell's short corner on the right but his cross to the back post just
evaded the head of Naismith.
There was little in the way of penalty
box action at either end until four minutes from the break when Adam
capitalised on some slack Serbian defending to send Miller through on
the right but the Vancouver Whitecaps striker screwed his attempted
cross just over the bar.
Hey! Alan Hutton yelps after being caught
There was time for Serbia striker
Darko Lazovic to test McGregor with a drive from the edge of the box and
at the other end, Adam's chip from 16 yards following a Scotland break
was plucked out of the air by Stojkovic.
The second half took time to get going
from a Scotland perspective but in the 51st minute another half-chance
went begging when defender Christophe Berra headed a Snodgrass corner
from the right, sloppily conceded by Kolarov, wide of the target.
Serbia midfielder Aleksandar Ignjovski
flashed a right-footed drive from 25 yards past McGregor's left-hand
post before Stojkovic had to be smart off his line to block Miller's
effort from close range.
Effort: Kolarov fires towards goal
Denied: Scotland's Allan McGregor saves from a shot from Branislav Ivanovic
The former Rangers and Celtic striker
then misjudged a lobbed pass from James Morrison moments later when he
was unmarked in the visitors' box.
In the 62nd minute, in another Serbia
break that opened up the home defence, Kolarov's low drive had the
Tartan Army holding its breath as the ball sped past the far post by
Four minutes later the home side created and missed their best chance of the game.
With the Serbia defence far too
square, Caldwell sent Naismith through with a perfectly-weighted pass
but the Everton striker could not set himself correctly and his shot
from 10 yards beat Stojkovic but bounced past the post.
James Forrest replaced Snodgrass to
give Levein's side some added impetus but the home fans began to grew
restless, chanting for Blackburn Rovers' new striker Jordan Rhodes to
Their mood was not helped when Miller made a hash of an Adam free-kick, heading the ball harmlessly up in the air.
In the 80th minute, in a double substitution, Jamie Mackie replaced Morrison and Rhodes replaced Miller, to a huge cheer.
The final stages were fraught with
McGregor making a crucial save from Serbia substitute Dusan Tadic
seconds before the end of regulation time, before Stojkovic blocked
Forrest's angled drive at the other end as the home side mounted one
After all that, it was rather harsh
for the home players to hear some boos ring out at the final whistle but
there can be no hiding the fact that 2014 qualification hopes have
taken a dent.
Winner Sinisa Mihajlovic will be happier than Craig Levein (right)
First: Ivanovic beats Naismith to the ball
Calm: Hampden Park before the match