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).

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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas