Scotland slumped to a disappointing defeat in Limerick yesterday as Slovenia caught them with a late goal from a corner, despite Scot Gemmill’s youngsters dominating.
Gemmill’s teenagers had started the European qualifiers convincingly on Friday with an excellent win and performance over Latvia. But they didn’t show up yesterday as Slovenia snatched a win, before Reading defender Zac Jules was sent off for two bookings.
Scotland failed to create much in the way of clear-cut chances despite having the majority of the ball. And it now means Scotland may now have to defeat hosts Ireland at the same venue on Wednesday to make it through to the elite rounds next year.
Gemmill admitted it was a poor Scottish display. He said: “It was really disappointing. Not just the result, but also in terms of the performance. It was not good enough.
“But, in saying that, I have just said to the players, the worst it should have been was 0-0. Set pieces are crucial and if you don’t defend them, the ball will end up in your net.
“Even though we never played well in terms of creating chances and breaking the opposition down, we should have been able to see the game out to get a point at least.
“Our quality wasn’t there today and we made too many unforced errors. We couldn’t get any moments of quality where we kept the ball. Slovenia pressed us and tackled and blocked but we knew they would do that. We needed good players to solve that problem.
“Wednesday is a huge game for us now. In terms of our preparation, things won’t change. It just means we have no room for error and we have to turn up and play to our maximum. It’s still in our hands and it’s about us playing to the level we know we can. We’ll make sure we are ready for it.”
Gemmill opted to rest Celtic’s Kieran Tierney and Nottingham Forest winger Oliver Burke and brought in Newcastle United left back Kyle Cameron and Celtic’s Mark Hill.
And, without Tierney in particular, Scotland didn’t seem to pose quite the same threat as in their opening day win, although Kilmarnock’s Greg Kiltie did drill a snap-shot over the bar early on.
But Scotland were still the better side against the Slovenians, who had beaten hosts Ireland in their opening match, and Hill and Rangers’ Ryan Hardie both went close before the interval.
Cameron struck a rebound wide after Hardie’s shot was palmed into his direction by Sloenia keeper Rok Vodisek, but the young Scots couldn’t make the breakthrough.
Tierney eventually came on midway through the second half and operated in a left wingrole and was almost immediately involved when Scotland had a shout for a penalty turned down after Marko Klemencic tussled with him in the box.
Yet for all the Scots’ possession, they had to rely on young Rangers keeper Robby McCrorie to tip a low shot from Zan Zuzek around the post.
But Scotland then lost the game from a lack of concentration from the resulting corner when Slovenia took the lead in the 73rd minute when captain Dominik Ivkic was left unmarked to power a header into the net.
Tierney could have levelled for Scotland late on when he chipped the goalkeeper from out on the left, but Zan Fils got back to head clear on his own line.
Jules was sent off with six minutes left for a trip on Jan Mlakar for his second booking to compound Scotland’s misery before McCrorie made another fine save in injury time to stop the loss being any worse.
SCORERS: Slovenia - Ivkic (73’)