From the Archives: Roxburgh’s men pegged back as Yugoslavs resort to unsavoury means
IN front of a worryingly disappointing attendance of less than 43,000, Scotland remained unbeaten in their World Cup qualifying section, but were unable to impose their will on opponents who enjoyed a decided edge in the second half and, in the process, enhanced their reputation as the side the rest have to beat in Group V of the World Cup qualifying tournament.
Scotland 1 Yugoslavia 1
The Scotsman, 19 October 1988
Referee: K H Tritschler (W Germany).
Not that the Scots lacked application or effort at Hampden last night against a Yugoslav side who mixed a potent cocktail of athleticism and pace, as well as the less savoury ingredients of time-wasting and professional fouls.
However, Andy Roxburgh’s men never solved the problem of supporting their front players from deep positions. This meant that the Yugoslavs rarely faced sustained pressure and chances in the tie were very much at a premium.
Having taken an early lead in the match, it was disappointing for Scotland to lose a soft goal before the interval. Throughout the second half, Yugoslavia were content to play a containing game and only once did Maurice Johnston and Ally McCoist manage to get off the leash.
The Scots were well served by a number of individuals. Andy Goram did nothing wrong as the late replacement of Jim Leighton, Paul McStay was always a tidy, probing presence in midfield and Willie Miller, on the occasion when he surpassed Danny McGrain’s number of caps, didn’t put a foot wrong at the back.
It was the swiftness and economy with which the Yugoslavs managed to build the play from defence into attack that impressed more than any individual, although Dragan Stojkovic and Mehmed Bazdarevic were outstanding. Theirs was a commanding presence even if the team’s temperament was suspect.
Craig Brown, Scotland’s Under-21 coach, had suspected that the pattern adopted by the Yugoslav youngsters would be mimicked by the senior team. Certainly the physical approach of the east Europeans was unchanged and Johnston was elbowed off the ball twice in the opening spell.
The Yugoslavs were intent on a counter-attacking policy. When Maurice Malpas was guilty of a slack pass to the flank after six minutes, they swept forward in numbers and Goram had to make a brave save at the feet of Borislav Cvetkovic to smother the danger.
Scotland’s best early moment came when Brian McClair, who kept his place instead of McCoist, sent Steve Nicol clear on the right. The midfield player’s low shot was well saved by Tomislav Ivkovic.
The Yugoslavs had clearly identified Johnston as the danger man and continued to dish out physical treatment to the striker.
After a cat-and-mouse start to the tie, it was to Scotland’s credit that they took the lead in the 17th minute with a goal built from the back.
McLeish played a long ball out of defence to Bett, in a position wide on the left. The Aberdeen man played the ball back to Malpas. The Dundee United full-back moved inside and played a one-two with McClair. The full-back’s low shot was only parried by Ivkovic, and Johnston was able to put enough pressure on Predrag Spasic, who struck the ball into his own net.
McClair played between the midfield and the front, a tactical decision that allowed Scotland to combat Yugoslavia’s strength in midfield. The Manchester United player had a busy and productive first half. There was no doubt that the Yugoslavs were most comfortable on the ball but Scotland defended well, and Gough’s magnificent 31st-minute tackle on Spasic epitomised a determined rearguard effort.
Nonetheless, with ten minutes of the first half remaining, the Scots lost a soft goal from a set piece. Goram appeared to make a first-class save from Stojkovic – this was later disputed by Andy Roxburgh, who claimed the ball struck a post. At any rate, the Yugoslavs won a corner on the left. Stojkovic played the ball towards the near post, where Nicol cleared off the line. Unfortunately, the ball fell nicely for Srecko Katanec, who drove from close range into the roof of the net.
The Scots forced a series of corners at the start of the second half, though a Vujovic header, comfortably saved by Goram, wanred of the threat the Yugoslavs posed on the break.
Yugoslavia’s technique continued to pose problems for Scotland. Goram had to make an alert save from Stanokovic’s cross, while there was considerable relief when Vujovic glanced a header wide after smart work by Cvetkovic.
Given that Yugoslavia had gained the upper hand, it was a timely moment for Roxburgh to change pattern. In 56 minutes Bett went off, McClair dropped back to midfield and McCoist came on as the fresh man in attack. Although McStay was playing with authority and delicacy of touch, Scotland’s main problem was an inability to link the midfield and attack. McCoist and Johnston received insubstantial service and too often were left to chase huge punts from the hands of the goalkeeper Goram.
There was a further attempt by Scotland to take charge of the proceedings when David Speedie replaced Roy Aitken. However, it remained an even contest in which the Yugoslavs always posed a threat when they counter-punched.
Ivkovic had to produce two outstanding saves in the closing minutes to keep his side on level terms when both Johnston and McCoist contributed snap shots on target.
Scotland: Goram (Hibs), Gough (Rangers), Malpas (Dundee United), Nicol (Liverpool), McLeish (Aberdeen), Miller (Aberdeen), McStay (Celtic), Aitken (Celtic), Johnston (Nantes), McClair (Manchester United), Bett (Aberdeen). Subs: Gunn (Norwich), MacLeod (Borussia Dortmund), Speedie (Coventry), McCoist (Rangers), Gallacher (Dundee United).
Yugoslavia: Ivkovic, Stanojkovic, Spasic, Jozic, Hadzibegic, Radanovic, Stojkovic, Katanec, Cvetkovic, Bazdarevic, Vujovic. Subs: Omerovic, Juric, Sabanadzovic, Jankovic, Brnovic.
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