Scotland slip to defeat in Spain but qualification hopes remain alive

Scotland manager Steve Clarke saw his side beaten in Spain (Isabel Infantes/PA)
Scotland manager Steve Clarke saw his side beaten in Spain (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Scotland suffered their first Euro 2024 qualifying defeat with a 2-0 loss in Spain but qualification hopes remain alive.

The Scots had won their first five Group A qualifiers including a 2-0 win over the Spanish at Hampden Park in March and needed to take something from the return game in Seville or Norway fail to beat Cyprus, to qualify on the night.

In a stifling warm evening, the Scots survived some heavy first-half pressure to go in at the break goalless before Scott McTominay, who scored both goals against Spain in Glasgow, fired in a wonderful free-kick in the 59th

minute only to see it ruled out after a VAR check for a Jack Hendry infringement.

Alvaro Morata headed in after 73 minutes and substitute Oihan Sancet and Scotland defender Ryan Porteous clashed together for the second in the 86th minute and with Norway beating Cyprus, Steve Clarke’s men move on to the second October fixture.

Scotland face France in a friendly in Lille next Tuesday but Spain face Norway two days earlier and if the Norwegians drop points, Scotland’s place in Germany will be secured while the Scots also have Georgia away and Norway at home in November.

That it was the annual National Day of Spain added to the sense of occasion although the Scots had work to do.

In the absence of injured Kieran Tierney, Clarke stuck with a back-three with Scott McKenna taking over and Lyndon Dykes was asked to lead the line, supported mostly by Ryan Christie.

Scott McKenna came n to the Scotland line-up
Scott McKenna came n to the Scotland line-up (Steve Welsh/PA)

Manchester City midfielder Rodri, who had criticised Scotland’s tactics and talent after the defeat in March, Gavi and Morata were some of the stars starting for this summer’s Nations League winners.

Feran Torres missed a great chance in the second minute, beating Scotland keeper Angus Gunn with a close-range shot after taking a Morata pass but failing to hit the target.

Torres’s corner moments later sped through the Scotland six-yard box but Morata’s header at the far post was at a stretch and caused no danger.

It was looking like a long night for the visitors.

La Roja kept their corner count ticking over amid their control of the game – Rodri was jeered by the Scotland fans – but the Scots stuck to their task with only the occasional foray forward.

Scott McTominay saw a goal disallowed
Scott McTominay saw a goal disallowed (Jose Breton/AP)

In the 34th minute, after Scotland defender Aaron Hickey brilliantly blocked a shot from Mikel Oyarzabal, Mikel Merino cracked the post with a left-footed drive and the ball spun away for a goal kick.

Morata had the ball in the net soon afterwards but was well offside but some bad luck followed.

Just before the break skipper Andy Robertson collided with Spain keeper Unai Simon and appeared to hurt his shoulder, with Nathan Patterson taking over and Hickey moving to left-back.

Granada attacker, Bryan Zaragoza, who scored twice against Barcelona at the weekend, came on to make his debut for Spain at the start of the second half, along with Fran Garcia.

Alvaro Morata (7) put Spain ahead
Alvaro Morata (7) put Spain ahead (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Spain continued their dominance but in a rare Scotland attack, Christie could not quite control a John McGinn pass inside the box and the chance was lost.

Christie did well to win a free-kick against Dani Carvajal near the byline on the left and the Tartan Army were in raptures when McTominay fired it high past Simon but after Dutch referee Serdar Gozubuyuk was sent to check his pitchside monitor, he ruled a Hendry foul on the keeper.

Scotland were soon on the back foot again as Spain brought on Jesus Navas and Sancet and when Navas crossed from the right Morata skimmed a header past Gunn.

Oihan Sancet, centre, wrapped up the points
Oihan Sancet, centre, wrapped up the points (Jose Breton/AP)

It was another blow for Scotland who came right out their shell, substitute Che Adams, on for Dykes, stabbing a close-range shot at Simon

while at the other end Porteous blocked a goal-bound shot from substitute Joselu before a mistake by Hickey allowed Joselu to square the ball and

Sancet and Porteous challenged with the ball ending in the net.

It was a tough night for Scotland but in qualification terms, Germany is still very much on the cards.