This was horrid. Gordon Strachan stood red-faced on the touchline – it was because of the heat inside the Boris Paichadze Arena but it might equally have been down to mounting fury within Scotland’s manager as his side’s hopes of reaching next year’s European Championships were left in a sweaty mess. They were out thought and out fought by a Georgian side who had previously beaten only Gibraltar in Group D.
It leaves Strachan requiring the greatest result of his career if Scotland are to resurrect their prospects of making it to France. Victory over Germany in Glasgow on Monday has become alarmingly necessary. On the evidence of last night that is a pipe dream, as is even claiming a point.
“It’s all about boucebackability and we’ve definitely got that in this team,” claimed Scott Brown. The captain had declared himself ashamed after Celtic’s exit from the Champions League last month. Last night he was more generous, plumping for “average” and bemoaned Scotland’s luck. The group, he said, “is still wide open.” This result means it is closing in on Scotland.
Scotland were poor in their last outing but still snatched a 1-1 draw in Ireland. They were worse in Georgia, sluggish and sloppy, and all the promise and bright football of the opening half of their campaign threatens to be meaningless yet again. Scotland have been here before, literally. Defeat in Georgia in 2007 proved fatal to their chances of reaching Euro 2008 and this may do the same.
Having scored in their dozen previous outings, Scotland could not have picked a worse time to mislay their shooting boots. They did not manage an effort on target and for all their possession – they had the lion’s share – it led down blind alley after blind alley. David Marshall in goal apart, there is not one Scotland player who should be satisfied with their night’s work. With home games against Germany and Poland to come, Scotland have a mountain and a hefty Munro to climb.
“We have to pick up something to make sure everybody knows we are still there – we are still there,” insisted Strachan of the Germany game. On last night he believed Scotland were worthy of earning a point.
“We did more than enough not to get beat but not enough not to win,” Strachan said. “There was never any real problem with the game, we felt really comfortable. I think it was their first strike on goal and they score.
“It is vital you don’t give away the first goal against a team that have been used to defending. They were hard to break down. We weren’t far away at times but we just didn’t have that final touch. The players tried to pass the ball, tried to be inventive, that’s all you can ask for.”
He should ask for more, and will need plenty more if Scotland are to take the required points from Germany and Poland. Georgia had scored three times against Gibraltar with their only other goal in the group coming against Ireland. They could not have expected to score with relative ease against Scotland.
It was a goal simply created and delightfully finished. Eight minutes from half-time Jaba Kankava lifted a 10-a-penny ball into the box where Levan Mchedlidze wrestled to head it down for Valeri Kazaishvili. The Vitesse Arnhem midfielder had time to lift the ball away from Charlie Mulgrew and Brown with one foot and then sweep it past Marshall with the other. It was a stylish finish, a league above anything that had preceded it.
Scotland had opened brightly, enjoying plenty of possession, but too many balls into the box went straight to defenders. Andrew Robertson curled a cross into the area that Steven Fletcher was a set of studs away from connecting with. It was the best chance Scotland created all night. Shaun Maloney had a late free-kick deflected over – the Hull City man was off-key and when he is Scotland’s tune too often falls flat – and a flurry of corners in the closing moments did little to bother a tall Georgia defence.
By then Strachan had ripped up Plan A and sent on James Forrest to switch to a 4-3-3. Plan B did not work either so it was left to Plan C, Leigh Griffiths on and a 4-4-2. That, like everything else for Scotland, did not work either.Reuse content