UEFA Under-21 EURO Qualifier
Scotland 1-2 France
Saturday 10th October 2015, 3pm kick-off
Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen
(King 90'; Findlay OG 12', Tolisso 53')
Scotland suffered their first defeat of their UEFA Under-21 EURO qualifying campaign despite a late rally against France at Pittodrie.
An early goal in each half for the visitors secured the French all three points in Aberdeen against ten-man Scotland, who had Ryan Gauld sent-off for a late tackle on Marcus Coco with 15 minutes to go.
A goal in injury-time from Heart of Midlothian’s Billy King had rallied the vocal Pittodrie support in the final moments, but France held on for the win.
Ricky Sbragia made two changes to the side that defeated Northern Ireland 2-1 in Lurgan last month, with Sam Nicholson and Stephen Kingsley coming in for John Souttar and Ryan Fraser, both of whom out through injury.
Hibernian midfielder John McGinn captained the side for the third time as one of two holding midfielders alongside Craig Slater while Nicholson, Ryan Gauld and Ryan Christie supported Jason Cummings up-front. Kingsley aside, Scotland’s back-four and goalkeeper were as they were for the campaign opener in Northern Ireland last month.
Scotland started encouragingly. Two minutes in, a neat through-ball from Jason Cummings found Sam Nicholson inside the French penalty box. The Heart of Midlothian player tried to weave through the opposition defence, but the visitors managed to snuff out the danger.
Ten minutes later, the French took the lead with their first attack of the afternoon. Thomas Lemar, who had only just came on to replace the injured Tiemoue Bakayoko, fired in a dangerous low cross along the Scotland six-yard box. Unfortunatently for the hosts, Stephen Kingsley’s clearance ricocheted off Stuart Findlay to give the visitors the lead.
Six minutes later, they nearly had the opportunity to double their lead. A piece of trickery on the wing by Aston Villa’s Jordan Amavi lead to a chance for Sebastien Haller. Haller was about to pull the trigger but Christie, in the team for his attacking prowess, showed his defensive merit with a fine last-ditch tackle.
Scotland’s best chance of the half was to follow a few minutes after Christie’s tackle.
McGinn showed real strength to dispossess Bayern Muncih’s Kingsley Coman in the middle of the park to play the ball to Slater. The Kilmarnock player picked up on the won possession to clip a searching diagonal ball to Nicholson. The winger darted inside for a shot on goal, with his blocked effort landing to Gauld.
The Sporting Club de Portugal midfielder showed a glimpse of why the Portugese giants paid Dundee United £3 million for his services last summer, with a shot from 20 yards which smashed Mouez Hassen’s crossbar.
Scotland had high hopes of starting the second half strongly, but an individual piece of class from Corentin Tolisso handed the visitors the momentum. The Lyon midfielder beat three Scotland players and then, from a near-impossible angle, fired the ball past Hamilton to double France’s lead.
Had it not been for Hamilton, France would have had a third just moments later.
Lemar found himself one-on-one inside the Scotland box, but the Hearts ‘keeper did brilliantly to prevent the Monaco player from finding the net.
With half an hour to go, Ricky Sbragia decided to go for it, sending on home favourite Lawrence Shankland on for Slater. The Aberdeen striker, currently on loan at St Mirren, raised the noise levels of the Pittodrie crowd as Scotland looked for a way back into the game.
With 15 minutes to go Scotland’s task became even tougher, when they were reduced to ten men. Gauld was caught in possession by Tolisso, and in a valiant attempt to prevent the counter-attack, attempted to tackle Marcus Coco. His tackle, however, was mistimed, leaving Italian referee Marco Guida no choice but to give him a straight red-card.
In added time, Scotland were given a glimpse of hope. Declan McManus and Billy King, the two other changes in the side in the final quarter of the match, battled to win possession in the French penalty box, and the latter latched on to a loose ball to pull one back for the home side. Unfortunately, time was not on Scotland’s side this time, as France saw out the final moments to secure their first win of the campaign.
Scotland have the opportunity to put things right on Tuesday, when they face Iceland at Pittodrie. The match kicks-off at 5:45pm, with tickets available at £5 for adults and £2 for concessions.
SCOTLAND UNDER-21 | Hamilton, Paterson, Kingsley, McGinn (C), Findlay, McGhee, Slater (Shankland 58’), Cummings (McManus 79’), Nicholson (King 68’), Gauld, Christie
SUBS | R.Fulton, J.Fulton, Love, Hyam