Yet more Hampden heartbreak for Scotland fans

By Andy BurkeBBC Sport at Hampden
Dejected Scotland fans
Scotland are now relying on other teams taking points from the Czech Republic

The mood outside Hampden Park was a confident one before the crucial Euro 2012 qualifier between Scotland and the Czech Republic.

The home supporters descended on the national stadium hoping, and expecting, to see their heroes put Tomas Rosicky, Milan Baros et al to the sword.

"We'll win 3-0," said Scotland supporter Bobby from Glasgow.

"Kenny Miller is the man, and we've got Steven Naismith as well, hopefully he'll get a goal.

"We've got to win today. Levein's the man for us. We're definitely going to do it."

The Scotland management team had been reluctant to label this match "win or bust" in the build-up, but the Tartan Army were in no doubt that nothing less than three points would do to keep Scotland's qualification hopes alive.

Doug Lundea of Arbroath said: "Lose, we're out [of contention to qualify]; draw, we're out.

"I think it could be a sticky game. I think the Czechs could be better than we are making out, but I honestly think Scotland is the better team. We must win."

Scottish fans always embrace their duty to create an intimidating atmosphere for travelling teams to handle, and the supporters were pumped up before kick-off.

As a result of a nervy first-half, in which the Czechs conjured a couple of openings, the Tartan Army's rousing vocal support faded.

It took an unexpected slice of fortune, when Czech goalkeeper Jan Lastuvka, deputising for the injured Chelsea stopper Petr Cech, gifted Miller the opening goal right on half-time with a botched attempted save.

Hampden came to life again, but nobody in the ground was fooled that the lead Levein's men took into the half-time break was merited.

And they could have no complaints when, 12 minutes from time, Bordeaux's Jaroslav Plasil pounced to prod home the equaliser.

The Tartan Army was stunned, and it appeared that qualification for another major tournament was slipping away.

Darren Fletcher appeared to have saved the day, with the captain finishing off some fine work from Miller.

But Scotland has a monopoly on the sting in the tail, having suffered from cruel twists of fate more times than any supporter cares to remember.

Kenny Miller scores
Miller fired Scotland ahead at Hampden after 44 minutes

The sucker punch came just minutes from time when substitute Danny Wilson was penalised for a foul on Jan Rezek, although contact was difficult to detect even with the aid of replays.

The penalty was ruthlessly dispatched by Michal Kadlec and once again Scottish hearts were broken.

A late penalty claim when Christophe Berra tumbled in the area yielded only a yellow card for the Wolves defender, and Steven Naismith had no doubt where the blame for this damaging result should be apportioned.

"The last five minutes of the game, the ref has two big decisions to make and he's got them both wrong," Naismith said.

"I wouldn't say it was our best performance, but we did what we needed to do.

"We got good goals at good times, we feel we had done enough to win the game but in the end it's bad decisions that has cost us."

The debate about the two penalty incidents will rage for a while yet, but for now, Scotland fans are left with that all too familiar feeling that qualification for a major championship is out of our hands.