FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 Qualifiers
Scotland 0-0 Serbia
Saturday, 8th September 2012
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Scotland’s World Cup Qualifying campaign got off to a solid if unspectacular start with a goalless draw against a gritty Serbian side at Hampden Park.
Steven Naismith and James Forrest created our best chances in a chess-like challenge with Allan McGregor preserving a point with a fantastic late save.
With Wales and Macedonia losing their opening Group A matches against Belgium and Croatia respectively, a win on Tuesday is key to securing a positive start in the first wave of fixtures.
Paul Dixon, a player who had been summoned at late notice after a raft of injuries in the full back position, not only thrived under the intense pressure of an expectant Hampden crowd but emerged from his debut clutching Vauxhall's man of the match champagne.
The pre-match plan was to get into the faces of the Serbs, feeding off the noise of the Hampden Roar.
Kenny Miller’s endeavour put early pressure on the back-line as he harried in his usual style.
There was patient containment from the visitors early on which had the Scottish masses frustrated. Positive play forward came from Steven Naismith who cut inside from the left.
He only had one man to beat but was blocked by Matija Nastasic. McGregor, who recovered from a groin injury to resume his place in goal, was called into early action by an Alexsandar Kolarov free-kick.
The Besiktas keeper got down low and left to tip wide.
The Serbs’ physicality was evident from the start and the duel between Robert Snodgrass and Kolarov was particularly compelling.
The Norwich City midfielder’s tenacity paid off as he won a free-kick on the edge of 18-yard-box. This forced a spectacular diving header block by Srdan Mijalovic.
Dixon whipped in a dangerous ball which the defence struggled to clear. A scramble ensued in the six-yard box but the Scots couldn’t quite steal it.
The Huddersfield Town wing-back was finding rare openings in what was a tight opening quarter.
There were long periods in the first half where both teams appeared to be waiting for the other to make their move.
Patience permeated throughout the Scottish side.
The trickery of Snodgrass was one ability in the team which could break the stalemate.
He made a run inside and created a one-on-one but his shot was tipped wide by Vladmir Stojkovic. The Serbs came out the traps in the second half with more attacking intent.
But again, as was the case in first half, Dixon found the most space and launched a foray into enemy territory.
This resulted in a corner which Berra headed wide. The match became bitty with few prolonged passing plays by both teams.
Alexander Ignovski produced the first real shot on goal which went narrowly wide.
The shot sparked the Scots into action. Miller was released by a cute chip over defence by Morrison but Stojkovic blocked.
This combination, again, almost broke the deadlock. Morrison lobbed over the defence but Miller couldn’t quite reach it to nod home.
The game opened up as both teams went for the three points.
The direct power of Kolarov burst through but his shot zoomed low and wide.
The best chance of the match came from an outstanding piece of play by Caldwell. He was released by a Charlie Adam flick to set up Naismith. The goal loomed but the Everton forward side footed it wide.
Again, it was the Scots who found themselves with the clearest chances.
Forrest was introduced for Snodgrass on 68 minutes.
Then it was a double substitution of Jamie Mackie and Jordan Rhodes for Miller and Morrison 10 minutes later in an attempt to win the three points.
The switch put the Serbs on the back foot.
Adam had the defence under pressure with a whipped free-kick but the defence held firm.
Forrest had the crowd on the edge of their seats with minutes to go as he burst through the defence in his inimitable style, only to have his shot beaten away by the Serbian No.1.
Scotland: McGregor (Gk), Hutton, Dixon, Berra, Caldwell (Cpt), Adam, Morrison (Mackie 80), Webster, Miller (Rhodes 80), Snodgrass (Forrest 68), Naismith.
Subs not used: Gilks (Gk), Hanley, Maloney, Cowie, Dorrans, McCormack, Marshall (Gk), Phillips, Foster.
Serbia: Stojkovic (Gk), Ivanovic (Cpt), Bisevac, Nastasic, Kolarov, Mijailovic ( Fejsa 46), Ninkovic, Duricic (Lekic 83), Tosic, Lazovic (Tadic 58).
Subs not used: Kahriman (Gk), Brkic, Tomovic, Maksimovic, Petrovic, Lukovic, Matic, Subotic, Markovic.
Attendance : 47369