Scotland 2 Germany 3, match report: Thomas Muller keeps spirited Scotland at arm's length

Scotland 2 Germany 3: With two games to play, against Poland here and Gibraltar, Scotland are four points behind the Irish

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The Independent Football

This was a gripping, helter-skelter of a contest and one that Scotland played a full part in. But it was also one in which class told. Germany are not impregnable, they conceded two soft goals, yet they are irresistible going forward and, with the irrepressible Thomas Müller at the heart of all three goals, the world champions always had too much for Scotland. Defeat for Gordon Strachan’s side, combined with victory for  Ireland against Georgia, means another finals is likely to pass without Scottish involvement.

With two games to play, against Poland here and Gibraltar, Scotland are four points behind the Irish. The straw for Strachan to clutch at is that Ireland have to host Germany before finishing in Poland. The flaw for Strachan to fume at is Scotland’s inability to win in Georgia, where all their rivals in Group D have taken three points. It was that result rather than Monday’s blood and thunder failure that has cost him and his team.

Scotland were unrecognisable from the timid side that failed to threaten in Georgia. They salvaged a deal of pride with this gutsy display – Germany were rattled at times, especially in defence – and the match ended with Hampden roaring late Scottish pressure. Bastian Schweinsteiger punched the air at the whistle, acknowledgement that Germany had been made to fight by a side who were ever willing, but ever limited. This was not a hard luck story for the Scots.

That Germany would dominate possession was not a surprise but Toni Kroos and Schweinsteiger stroked it around with aloof precision. Scotland pressed and pressed as the Germans passed and moved, passed and moved, probed and probed. They were not creating any obvious openings but it still felt like one slip would let them in.

It came after 18 minutes. James McArthur gambled by stretching to intercept deep in Scotland’s half, missed and Müller was away. He turned and sauntered into the box, afforded too much time to get his shot away. It was a weak effort but deflected off Russell Martin to leave goalkeeper David Marshall stranded.

Emre Can, unconvincing on his Germany debut against Poland, wrestled Charlie Mulgrew to the ground on the edge of the box. It might have been a penalty but it still led to a goal. Shaun Maloney smacked the set-piece in low, Manuel Neuer fumbled to prove he is human and the ball cannoned off Mats Hummels and into the net. The roof came off Hampden.

Six minutes later it was back on. Müller is the master of the scrappy goal and this was another for his scrapbook. Scotland’s defence dallied, Mulgrew was caught out of possession to allow Can to shoot. It was blocked by Marshall but spun up kindly for Müller to head enough of the ball over the line before Mulgrew could hack it away.

There was no time to draw breath, the match swinging frantically from end to end. Shaun Maloney slipped Mulgrew away for the Celtic man to force a corner. Maloney took it and failed to clear the first man, only for the ball to drop to McArthur, one of three players brought in to give Scotland added pep after the damp squib in Georgia. The Crystal Palace midfielder volleyed past an unsighted, and uncharacteristically unsure looking, Neuer. McArthur was not alone in looking stunned at what he had just done.

The next goal, and there was always going to be a next goal – it was that sort of night – was stunning too, this time in its sheer quality. Ilkay Gündogan played the ever-available Müller inside Mulgrew and the Bayern man, after assessing his options, slid a ball back to Gündogan, who steered in his second international goal.

Mulgrew’s dizzying contribution came close to helping Germany to a fourth. He had struggled playing at  left-back for Celtic when they had tumbled out of the Champions League in Malmo, which made Strachan’s selection a gamble. Mulgrew gifted the ball to Müller, whose cross broke for Schweinsteiger and it took a smart save from Marshall to deny him.

Alan Hutton, enjoying one of his better nights, barged into the area like a runaway bull and battered a shot into the side netting but another German goal always looked more likely than a third Scotland equaliser.

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