Scotland's brave fightback cruelly ended by Llorente

Scotland 2 Spain 3

Another step closer to "Adios", probably, to Scotland's chances of reaching Euro 2012, but on a night to remember, Craig Levein's side recovered from 2-0 down against the best team in the world to reach parity and put the Tartan Army in raptures, before Fernando Llorente snatched an always likely Iberian win.

Close but no cigar. A dream stolen; and the fantasy section of this dream lasted 13 minutes last night, from the 66th-minute equaliser for 2-2 to the 79th-minute goal for 3-2. These are recurring themes for the Tartan Army, and on and on they go.

Scotland have beaten reigning world champions before (England 1967, Argentina 1990), but to be within a goal of doing so against this astonishingly gifted Spanish team in such circumstances was something to savour, too.

"Every one of my players tonight is a hero for their efforts," Levein said. He was loathe to single anyone out though his description of goalkeeper Allan McGregor as "exceptional" was appropriate. Without his sterling efforts, Scotland might easily have been 4-0 or 5-0 down inside an hour.

David Villa put Spain ahead with a first-half penalty – his 44th goal in 70 caps make him Spain's all-time equal greatest scorer, with Raul – and Andres Iniesta made it 2-0 early in the second half. Stevie Naismith's header and a Gerard Pique own goal got Hampden rocking, literally. Then Llorente, nicknamed the "Lion King", roared, or rather scored.

"It didn't get to the point where I thought we'd actually lose the game," said Spain's manager, Vicente del Bosque. "But the speed with which Scotland were attacking back at us [to get to 2-2] did give us problems."

The upshot is that Spain are top of Group I with three wins from three games and nine points, ahead of the Czech Republic on six points from three games, then Scotland with four points from four. The Scots are mathematically still in contention for a play-off place; win their last four games or even three and they could snatch the runners-up spot. But as usual, it is an uphill task.

"I don't think it's over for Scotland by any means," Del Bosque said. "Although I consider the Czechs our main rivals for the group."

Levein ditched the 4-6-0 formation he fielded in the defeat in Prague last week in favour of a more adventurous 4-2-3-1 with an actual striker, Kenny Miller. Still, the aim was always likely to be to avoid a heavy beating, and as the first half drew to a close it seemed they were about to escape merely on the end of a 0-0 thrashing.

The visitors had not scored – by the 44th minute at least – for all their possession, probing and chances. But they had pretty much had the run of Hampden. Then Spain were award a penalty, harshly as far as the Scots were concerned, when Sergio Ramos's rising shot hit the back of Steven Whittaker's upper arm.

Villa hit the spot-kick low and to McGregor's left, and though the keeper got a hand to it, he could not keep it out.

The game looked up for Scotland 10 minutes into the second half when Andres Iniesta, after two blocks, passed into the net. But Kenny Miller's cross was helped in by Naismith's head, and a famous draw was on the cards. The last time Spain had failed to win any qualifier was in September 2007, in a 1-1.

The home side's equaliser arrived in the 66th minute, James Morrison's shot going in off Pique. However, 13 minutes later Llorente popped the Hampden balloon. And a second booking for Whittaker late on merely added to Scotland's pain.

Scotland (4-2-3-1): McGregor (Rangers); Bardsley (Sunderland), Weir (Rangers), McManus (M'brough), Whittaker (Rangers); McCulloch (Rangers), Fletcher (Man Utd); Morrison (West Brom), Dorrans (West Brom), Naismith (Rangers); Miller (Rangers). Substitutes used Adam (Blackpool) for McCulloch, h-t; Mackie (QPR) for Dorrans, 80; Maloney (Celtic) for Morrison, 88.

Spain (4-2-3-1): Casillas; Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila; Busquets, Alonso; Silva, Iniesta, Cazorla; Villa. Substitutes used Hernandez for Cazorla, 71, Llorente for Silva, 76, Marchena for Busquets, 90.

Referee M Busacca (Switzerland).

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

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?