Mike Aitken sees luck desert Scots as Willie Miller own goal settles Poznan friendly
In spite of resilient defensive play from a hard-worked back four and brilliant goalkeeping by Alan Rough, this makeshift Scotland team narrowly lost a friendly international here tonight to a Willie Miller own goal.
His deflected effort brought Poland a somewhat unconvincing win which broke a six-game sequence without victory.
Inspired by the forceful play of Kmiciek, the leading goalscorer in the Polish League, and the snap shooting of Boniek, the Poles got the breakthrough they wanted in the 78th minute.
Boniek it was who provided the shot and Miller unfortunately turned the shot past his own goalkeeper. Which was exceedingly hard lines on the collective efforts of an impressive defence and a good individual performance by Miller himself.
Burley was an industrious, able right-back until he was replaced by Dawson near the end. McLeish and Miller looked and played like clubmates in the centre of the defence and must be regarded as well worthy of the second outing together in Hungary on Saturday.
McGrain came forward with a bit of style from the left-back position and behind them all Rough performed quite splendidly. Under the circumstances of playing away from home with a weakened side, Scotland were perhaps a shade unfortunate to lose this one.
I thought Jock Stein’s men were just about worthy of a draw and there were certainly more good things to take from this game than last Saturday’s debacle against England.
Narey was a tireless contributor in midfield, where Dalglish was ineffectual and after taking a knock he was replaced by Weir in the second period.
Two young graduates from the Under-21 side, Brazil of Ipswich and Dawson of Rangers, came on to win their first caps in the second half and acquitted themselves professionally. Indeed the presence of so many former Under-21 players in the side was the element of the match which pleased manager Stein most.
Captained by Danny McGrain for the first time, Scotland were at their most aggressive in the opening minutes when they exploited the nervousness of the Poles by winning a free kick after an illegal challenge had hampered Archibald’s progress. Strachan struck the dead ball and Aitken managed to connect with a header which Mowlik clutched easily.
Poland were slow getting into their stride but were clearly the dominant force in the latter phase of the first half. Boniek warned Scotland of the danger of allowing the home side free shots at goal, but his 35-yarder was carefully dealt with by Rough.
In the eleventh minute, Roy Aitken hit a fierce, rising drive from the left which the Polish goalkeeper read well. Scotland’s defence was not really troubled until the 16th minute when a brilliant swerving corner from Boniek boomeranged past the post.
After 20 minutes, Palasz made the break to the bye-line, cut it back and Kmiciek would have scored but for the timely appearance of Miller’s boot.
The Poles had become more threatening and Boniek should have done better in the 24th minute than sidefoot Lipka’s cross wide. A minute later right-back Dziuba connected with a searing 30-yard drive which Rough clutched superbly.
Long-range shooting proved easily the most impressive part of the Poles’ play and Boniek was the next to thump one towards the right-hand corner of the Scottish goal. Once more Rough sprang acrobatically into action and proved the equal of a difficult task.
Scotland had defended vigorously, intelligently and sometimes fortuitously throughout difficult conditions. The swirling wind made the run of the ball erratic, though there was compensation in the excellent underfoot conditions.
Burley and Miller were both particularly effective in their smothering tackles and the back four had a much better balance to it than on Saturday.
Some ten minutes from half-time, however, Poland went desperately close. Boniek was the danger man, making the break into the box, Miller connected with a telling tackle. Rough dived in - then dramatically lost possession. But McLeish proved the saviour with a fine sliding effort.
The start of the second half saw Jock Stein make a change with Alan Brazil of Ipswich coming on in place of Joe Jordan to win his first cap in attack.
It was only minutes before Scotland made another change when the injured Dalglish limped off to be raplaced by Peter Weir.
Poland had also made a switch, bringing on Terlecki for Palasz on the wing. They continued to look the side more likely to score and the Scots were relieved when Rough made another brilliant save from Kmiciek.
Scotland, mind you, were a livelier outfit with the introduction of Weir and Brazil. They carved out their best chance to date in the 53rd minute when Burley sent an incisive ball to Weir on the left. The St Mirren player’s cross was judged to perfection and Archibald’s header drifted an agonising inch or two over the bar.
They created a second clear-cut chance in the 65th minute when Weir set Strachan up coming in on the left side of the defence. But the Aberdeen player’s shot slid into the side netting.
As Scotland’s defence were more in command at this stage of the game than any other, it was ironic indeed that Stein’s men should lose a goal just when they appeared to be at their strongest.
Lipka whipped the ball past the cover to Boniek in the middle who made space neatly and turned the ball past Rough with the aid of a deflection off Willie Miller.
Poland: Mowlik, Janas, Zmuda, Barczak, Daziuba (Ciolek 69), Lipka, Nawalka, Boniek, Kmiecik, Palasz (Terlecki 46), Lato.
Scotland: Rough, Burley (Dawson 80), McGrain, Narey, McLeish, Miller, Strachan, Aitken, Dalglish (Weir 48), Archibald, Jordan (Brazil 46).