UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier
Kazakhstan 3–0 Scotland
Thursday, 21 March, kick-off 3pm (UK time)
Astana Arena, Astana
Kazakhstan: Pertsukh (6), Vorogovskiy (9), Zaiyutdinov (50)
Scotland suffered a disappointing 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan in their opening UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier in Astana, as their hosts emerged victorious in the first-ever meeting between the two nations.
Under the closed roof of the Astana Arena, Scotland’s vocal travelling supporters were silenced by an early Kazakhstan blow. A lofted ball over the top saw Yuriy Pertsukh spring the offside trap, the midfielder composing himself before lashing the ball past Scott Bain for the opening goal of the game.
It got worse for Scotland just three minutes later. A slide-rule pass from captain Islambek Kuat found Yan Vorogovskiy, who remained composed to hold off the incoming challenge of Graeme Shinnie and double the hosts’ advantage.
Scotland rallied, with Oli Burke looking lively on his first appearance since his recall to the squad. A burst from the on-loan Celtic winger earned his team a corner, from which David Bates glanced a header wide of the mark.
Pushing for the next goal, McLeish’s men were dominating possession as they probed for a way through the Kazakhstan defence. Stuart Armstrong’s cross caused havoc in the penalty area, before Liam Palmer’s effort was blocked by a host of defenders.
Yet the home side remained a threat on the break, as Kuat proved on 28 minutes. The Kazakhstan captain let fly with a rasping 30 yard drive aimed at the top corner, requiring Bain to produce an acrobatic one-handed save to turn the ball over the top.
Still Scotland came forward as the half wore on, as they looked for a foothold in proceedings, John McGinn testing the goalkeeper with a long-range drive in an attempt to find a breakthrough before the interval.
However, an already tall mountain for Scotland to climb grew in stature just five minutes after the restart. With time and space in the wide channel, Gafurzhan Suyumbayev picked out Baktiyar Zaynutdinov in the penalty area. The Rostov striker’s header sailed beyond Bain’s reach, making the task for McLeish’s side that much more difficult and sending the home fans into delirium.
The perfect response was almost delivered with Scotland’s next attack. Good interplay from Oli McBurnie and Stuart Armstrong saw the Southampton midfielder break into the box, with only a strong save denying Scotland from opening their account.
McBurnie’s industry created his side’s next chance, as James Forrest was unable to make a strong enough connection with his striker’s knock-down on 56 minutes.
Yet still Scotland could not unlock the Kazakhstan defence, as their hosts continued to frustrate any attempt to breach their defence. Marc McNulty was sent on with 10 minutes remaining for his international debut, in the hope of providing the elusive cutting edge.
It was not to be for McLeish’s side, however, as a Callum McGregor free-kick was beaten away to herald the full-time whistle. With a three day turnaround before their trip to San Marino, the squad will have to put the result behind them as they attempt to bounce back in their second UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier.
Kazakhstan: Nepohodov; Vorogovskiy, Maliy, Postnikov, Yerlanov (Akhmetov 80), Suyumbayev; Pertsukh, Kuat (capt), Merkel; Zainutdinov (Muzhikov 83), Murtazayev (Turysbek 67).
Subs not used: Pokatilov, Shatskiy, Omirtayev, Zhukov, Seidakhmet, Shomko, Fedin, Beysebekov.
Scotland: Bain; Palmer, McKenna, Bates, Shinnie; McGinn (McTominay 68), McGregor (capt); Burke, Armstrong, Forrest (McNulty 80); McBurnie (Russell 60).
Subs not used: McLaughlin, Kelly, O’Donnell, Souttar, Findlay, Fleck, McLean, Morgan.