Impressive Scottish comeback not enough against World Champions

Scotland 2 Spain 3

Steven Naismith scored a goal he will never forget - but it was not enough to secure a point against Spain at Hampden tonight.

Naismith sparked an impressive comeback after Scotland had fallen behind to David Villa's penalty and strike from Andres Iniesta, before a Gerard Pique own goal set the home side on course for a precious point.

But glorious failures are Scotland's speciality and Fernando Llorente came off the bench to have the final say and deny Craig Levein's men a draw from a gutsy display - with Steven Whittaker sent off late on.

Scotland made three changes from the side which lost to Czech Republic on Friday night, with Phil Bardsley handed his international debut in place of the injured Alan Hutton after switching his allegiance to the Scots.

Kenny Miller - the subject of so much debate last week - was back in the starting line-up, along with Lee McCulloch, who missed the last game through injury and suspension. Gary Caldwell and Jamie Mackie were named on the bench.

Levein declared beforehand this Spain side could possibly be the best team Scotland have ever faced and one look at the team-sheet backed that theory, with nine of the players who started the World Cup final in tonight's line-up.

Xabi Alonso was back after recovering from flu, while Llorente's two goals against Lithuania at the weekend were not enough to prevent him being dropped to the bench.

It was not long before Spain were demonstrating their class, with a lovely long ball from Alonso collected by Villa - who lashed just over the crossbar. The Barcelona striker had another chance with a free header from David Silva's cross but Allan McGregor gathered.

Silva was then denied by the legs of McGregor as the home side soaked up the pressure from their visitors.

Scotland showed they were capable of posing a threat when Darren Fletcher raced down the left flank before cutting-back for James Morrison and he was only denied the opener by a last-gasp clearance from Joan Capdevila.

McGregor had earned plaudits for his performance in Prague and it looked like it could be another busy night for the Rangers number one, who did well to keep out Villa's strike from six yards.

Alonso then lobbed into the path of Silva but he failed to connect properly and miskicked from close-range, with the ball trundling wide.

Stephen McManus was the hero with a late winner here against Liechtenstein and he came to the rescue again when he hooked Iniesta's volley to safety on the six-yard line - only for Scotland to suffer a crushing blow a minute before the break.

Referee Massimo Busacca ruled that Whittaker handled a Sergio Ramos shot in the box and booked him for handball, despite the full-back claiming the ball had hit his shoulder. Villa converted from the penalty spot, with McGregor guessing right but failing to claw the shot past the post.

Hopes of a comeback in the second half suffered a setback when Spain increased their lead 10 minutes after the restart.

Santiago Cazorla rifled a shot off the legs of McManus and the rebound fell for Iniesta to despatch a low shot into the net from 15 yards.

Yet Scotland pulled a goal back just three minutes later when Naismith threw himself in front of Miller's cross from the right to send a diving header past the grasp of goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

And Levein's men were back on level terms after 66 minutes, Pique prodding high into his own net as he tried to cut out a centre from Morrison.

Spain restored their lead with 11 minutes to go when substitute Llorente collected a long cross from Capdevila in plenty of space and was allowed to stab home from close range to maintain the world champions' 100 per cent record in Group I.

Scotland - and Whittaker's - misery was compounded when he picked up a second yellow for a challenge on Ramos with a minute to go.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore