Football: Young Scots humbled by 10-man Latvia

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The Independent Online
Scotland Under-21 2 Latvia Under-21 4

A head butt by the Latvian goalkeeper, Alexander Kolinko, briefly sparked Scotland's Under-21 side into life - but the visitors were still too strong even with 10 men in a European Under-21 Championship qualifier of high drama at Almondvale stadium yesterday.

It was a tale of two keepers, with Queen of the South's 19-year-old David Mathieson enduring a painful afternoon, sharing at least some blame for each of Latvia's four goals.

Michael Craig, the nephew of Scotland's coach, Tommy, was the victim of Kolinko's moment of madness which reduced the visitors to 10 men when leading 2-0. Craig Jnr was forced off injured in the incident and, as it occurred in the area, the referee, Milan Mitrovic, awarded a penalty, which was converted by Dundee's Iain Anderson after 32 minutes. Then Craig's replacement, David Graham of Rangers, levelled the score after 44 minutes with a close-range effort.

That cancelled out a Latvian lead gained with early strikes by Nikolai Polakov after nine minutes and Igor Slesarchuk after 21 minutes - each aided by some uncertain keeping from Mathieson.

However, while Scotland were able to exploit their extra man initially, further lapses in concentration from Mathieson led to second-half goals from Erik Pelcis after 54 minutes and Vsevolod Lidak, three minutes later, which secured victory for the Latvians.

Neither side were in contention for the knock-out stages of the Under- 21 Championship. This defeat was the Scots' seventh defeat of a dismal campaign, which has seen only seven points gained from 10 matches.

"It is a learning process for these lads," Craig Snr said. "I think they now recognise that mistakes get punished at this level, as we were against a strong physical side today."

SCOTLAND UNDER-21: Mathieson (Queen of the South); McEwan (Raith Rovers), Naysmith (Hearts), McCluskey (St Johnstone), Horn (Hearts), Craig (Aberdeen), Buchan (Aberdeen), Brebner (Manchester Utd), Thompson (Dundee Utd), Ferguson (Rangers), I Anderson (Dundee). Substitutes: Graham (Rangers) for Craig, 32; R Anderson (Aberdeen) for McEwan, 52; Young (Aberdeen) for Brebner, 67.

LATVIA UNDER-21: Kolinko (Skonto Riga); Zimis (Metalurg Riga), Pumpa (Lokomotiv Daugavpils), Rinkus (Metalurg Riga), Lidak (Daugava Riga), Mihalchuk (Daugava Riga), Polakov (Ventspils), Nalivaiko (Daugava Riga), Pelcis (Panerys Vilnius, Lith), Slesarchuk (Skonto Riga), Rubin (Osters Vaxjo, Swe). Substitutes: Digulov (Valmiera) for Polakov, 30; Garnier (Valmiera) for Pumpa, h-t.

Referee: M Mitrovic (Slovenia).