Scots’ profligacy punished in Dutch defeat

24 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
Scots’ profligacy punished in Dutch defeat

The Sunday Mail

SCOTLAND’S winless run stretched to six games as their wastefulness in front of goal was compounded by a late collapse against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Friday night.

Steve Clarke’s side impressed for long durations against the Dutch, and spurned a succession of glorious chances, but were dealt a harsh lesson in ruthlessness at the elite level.

Trailing with 18 minutes left to Tijiani Reijnders’ fabulous first-half strike, the Scots then lost three cheap goals in the final stages to flip the narrative from an encouraging evening to a chastening night.

Georginio Wijnaldum and Wout Weghorst netted, before Donyell Malen added a fourth for a Dutch side short of their best.

Scotland have now conceded 18 goals in six games, with just three friendly matches to play before they face hosts Germany in the opening game of Euro 2024.

Playing in their new Euros kit, a gallus Scotland looked the part for large spells of the contest.

Lawrence Shankland caught the eye on just his second start, as did Ryan Christie in his slightly altered role. The Bournemouth midfielder thumped a header on goal, but Mark Flekken pushed it on to the bar.

Cody Gakpo was a threat at the other end. The Liverpool forward was inches away from slipping the offside trap, flung cute crosses into the box and took a theatrical flop over Scott McTominay in search of a penalty. No card was shown for such dramatics.

Just when it seemed Scotland would go in at the break level, Reijnders’ rocket changed the script. The visitors were too generous in allowing the AC Milan midfielder to take Gakpo’s lay-off and lash beyond Angus Gunn.

Could the goalkeeper have scrambled across sooner? One can debate.

Scotland heads did not drop, in what looked like a sign of maturity. They continued to spray the ball between them, even kindly affording their opponents — ranked sixth in the world — a turn with the ball themselves every now and then.

That is often all the top sides need, though.

Memphis Depay astutely let the ball roll across his body to unleash a shot on the swivel. Gunn dropped to his left to tip it away. Minutes later, he rose to push Gakpo’s scorcher over.

The Dutch could afford for such chances to go by, but Scotland do not have that luxury.

McTominay dilly-dallied in getting a shot away. A John McGinn effort had venom, but Flekken was on hand, while Christie got his angles wrong for a nearby header.

Then Shankland’s moment seemed to have arrived.  Mats Wieffer wobbled, with McTominay breathing down his neck, and the Hearts captain was in. One on one with Flekken, it is a scenario he would have dreamed of.

But he struck the bar and, as the ball disappeared over, Scotland’s hopes went with it.

Wijnaldum snuck in between Jack Hendry and John Souttar to nod beyond Gunn. At that point, 2-0 felt harsh.

Weghorst then capitalised on his former United team-mate McTominay’s mistimed jump to head in another, before Malen signed off the trouncing by sturdily staying on his feet to poke in a fourth.

With 18 minutes to go, disappointment seemed inevitable for Scotland after countless squandered chances. But positives were aplenty. A flogging of this nature never seemed on the cards.

For over an hour, it was one of the best away performances against a top-quality nation by Clarke’s side in recent memory.

There was a control, a confidence, perhaps a cockiness at times, about their play. A lot of chances were created. Equally, though, they were wasted — a total of 13 of them.

Scotland were faced with an in-form Flekken, who did not flounder.

An ugly defeat developed. If this was the first rehearsal for the Euros, then the curtains need to be closed and a new routine choreographed.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman said: “During the first hour, the Scottish team were the better team; they created more chances to score, it was a little bit unbelievable that they didn’t because they had so many chances.

“We knew before that Scotland would fight; they are a really aggressive team with good players like John McGinn, who played very well tonight.”

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke said: “It’s a strange one. Obviously sore, losing 4-0, you can’t really dress it up, it was painful.

“For 70 minutes, it was really good, then we concede a poor second goal. The biggest difference between the sides was clinical finishing. We created a lot against a good side.

“It is one to go away and digest but not get too emotional. I have got to clear my head. I had an idea in mind what I might do on Tuesday night but the game tonight might have just changed that.” — BBC

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