Serbia 2-0 Scotland

By Alasdair LamontBBC Scotland in Novi Sad
Highlights - Serbia 2-0 Scotland

Scotland's World Cup qualifying hopes ended with defeat to a Serbian side who were better throughout.

The Scots defended well in the goal-less first half but, as they began to show more initiative, were hit by two sucker punches.

Both came from close-range finishes by Filip Duricic, the second in particular coming from quite dreadful defending.

The result means Scotland, for the first time, have gone seven qualifying matches without a win.

And with Belgium beating Macedonia 1-0 and Croatia coming from behind to defeat Wales 2-1 Scotland now cannot qualify for the finals in Brazil.

Those two winning teams are now on 16 points in Group A, while Gordon Strachan's side are on two points with 12 more available from the remaining ties.

Indeed, Scotland are in real danger of failing to record a victory in the entire campaign, with two matches against Croatia, one away to Macedonia and one at home to Belgium to come.

A number of the travelling fans had helped clear snow from the pitch beforehand, to ensure the game went ahead, but as it kicked off they might have quickly been wishing they had not bothered.

The Scots, much as they had against Wales, started nervously and were under immediate pressure as Dusan Tadic charged into the box, only for the visitors to get back in numbers to block.

Liam Bridcutt looked to settle very quickly into the international football arena, showing good composure and positional nous as his teammates began to play themselves into the game.

Interview - Scotland manager Gordon Strachan

David Marshall saved well down low to his left to keep out the first Serbian effort on target from Dusan Basta and then again from Duricic, who had escaped the attentions of Grant Hanley.

The Blackburn defender, who had been found wanting defensively against Wales, did make a couple of terrific interventions to deny Basta and then Branislav Ivanovic goalscoring opportunities, with Scotland only able to make sporadic bursts into home territory.

By and large, though, the Scots were defending solidly, on occasions putting bodies on the line to keep out the technically superior Serbians.

Having battled to half-time with their resolve intact, Scotland created an early second-half chance, principally through great desire shown by Charlie Adam and when the ball broke to Steven Naismith, he curled it beautifully past Vladimir Stojkovic, only for his celebrations to be brought to an immediate halt by the assistant referee's offside flag.

With Scotland showing a good deal more attacking intent, they were presented with another tremendous opportunity as Jordan Rhodes picked up possession just outside the box, but his early shot was easily gathered by Stojkovic.

Interview - Scotland midfielder Charlie Adam and forward Steven Naismith

And just seconds later, Serbia were in front. There was an element of fortune about the goal, though arguably the Serbians had earned it, as Steven Whittaker's challenge inside his own penalty area simply carried the ball into the path of Duricic, who tapped into the net.

Ironically, Scotland were enjoying their best period in the game but soon found themselves two goals down.

This time, Alan Hutton seemed to be unaware of the presence of Nenad Tomovic as he awaited a pass from Gary Caldwell. The Serbian fullback nipped in, cut into the box, where the ball broke kindly for Duricic to once again score easily.

From that point onwards, the Serbians reassumed total control, giving Gordon Strachan much to reflect upon on the long journey home.


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