SCOTLAND Under 19s failed to hold onto a two-goal lead against hosts Belgium, but were still encouraged by their impressive start to the Euro Elite tournament.
Scorers: Scotland Under-19: Beck (19), Macleod (23); Belgium Under-19: Verstraete (50), De Sart (56)
Ricky Sbragia’s young Scots got off to a great start in the first half in Geel and raced into a two-goal lead thanks to goals from Carlisle United’s Mark Beck and Rangers midfielder Lewis Macleod.
It would have been a brilliant beginning for Scotland in the opening game in the three-match qualifiers, but the Belgians hit back in the second half with two goals and a draw was a fair result in the end.
And manager Sbragia was pleased at the outcome. He said: “It’s been a long season and they have given us everything so we can’t ask for any more. I thought they were outstanding.
“At 2-2 I thought I wish it would stop now!
“I was pleased with them. Even at 2-0 we were still going at them, but you knew they were going to have a little go at you at some stage because they are an excellent team.
“Before the game if you had said to me that we wouldn’t lose it, I’d have taken it. But in general I was really pleased.”
Sbragia also praised Hearts keeper Jack Hamilton for a string of saves, starting in the 17th minute of the match when Scotland captain Jack Grimmer inexplicably dallied on the ball and was robbed by Belgian’s Torino striker Nathan Kabasele. It took an excellent stop from Hamilton to prevent the young Scots from conceding a needless early goal.
And the value of that save was illustrated two minutes later when Scotland took the lead. Everton’s Matt Kennedy burst inside the Belgian left back and carried the ball into the box to square it for Beck to poke into the net from close range.
It got even better in the 23rd minute when the Scots doubled their advantage. A John McGinn free kick was only cleared into the path of Macleod and the Rangers kid rattled in a superb strike from the edge of the box into the corner of the net.
But it wouldn’t be Scotland at any level if it were plain sailing and the Belgians responded with five minutes of the second half when Birger Verstraete was allowed a free header from a corner to head home.
Celtic’s Stuart Findlay saw a deflected header skim off the top of the crossbar from a Scots corner right after the Belgians had got their first goal – but the hosts equalised in the 56th minute when Scotland again failed to defend a corner and after Kabasele had hit the post, Belgium captain Julien De Sart found himself in space to ram in the rebound.
Substitute John Herron had the chance to win it for Scotland with five minutes left when he beat the offside trap, but he could only lash the ball against the side netting from an acute angle.
Scotland Under-19s: Hamilton; O’Hara, Grimmer, Findlay, Kingsley; McGinn, Macleod (Herron 60), Lindsay; Kennedy (King 90), Beck (McManus 68), Fraser. Subs not used: Henly, Davey, Souttar, Gauld..
Belgium Under-19s: Dhoest; llboma, Fiore, De Sart, Corryn; Foket, Verstraete, Croux, Buekers; Schoofs, Kabasele.