Scotland land point in Belgium but relegation confirmed ahead of England clash

Fiona Brown battles for the ball against Belgium. Cr. Getty Images.Fiona Brown battles for the ball against Belgium. Cr. Getty Images.
Fiona Brown battles for the ball against Belgium. Cr. Getty Images.
Scotland have been relegated from their Nations League group despite a fine Erin Cuthbert strike earning them a 1-1 draw with Belgium in Leuven.

The result may have not been enough to prevent Nations League relegation, but a much-improved performance will give Scotland a welcomed confidence boost ahead of Tuesday's clash with England at Hampden.

Scotland were without a number of key players for last month's double header with the Netherlands. That said, the Dutch didn't need to break a sweat to overcome Pedro Martinez Losa's side.

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With a portion of the fanbase becoming restless at the speed of progress since his appointment, there was little margin for error against Belgium on Friday evening. The return of Sam Kerr proved a boost for the head coach, though his two big calls in opting to start Sandy MacIver over regular number one Lee Gibson and the omission of Kirsty Hanson from the starting XI raised eyebrows.

With a much anticipated clash against the Lionesses on the horizon, the Spanish boss required a performance akin to their early 2023 form after three defeats in the last four games. The head coach would have been happy with how his team started the game as Fiona Brown tested the Belgian back line with a tricky cross after six minutes. Erin Cuthbert's resulting corner saw appeals for a penalty, but the referee was correct in waving away appeals for an alleged hand ball.

Scotland, sporting their striking new 'heather inspired' away kit, would go even closer just before the 20 minute mark when Claire Emslie's cross saw Cuthbert arrive on the end of it, but it lacked the power to beat Nicky Evrard in goal All the good work was undone in an instant when Scotland were cut open too easily by Laura Deloose, whose through ball allowed Tessa Wullaert to cross for an unmarked Marie Detruyer to tap home beyond MacIver in the away goal.

Scotland's dismay was short-lived though when a fine drive from Cuthbert floated beyond her club team-mate in the Belgian net and restored parity just minutes later and few could argue against it being fully deserved

Martinez Losa's side began the second period as brightly as they ended the first and really should have been ahead when a well-worked corner saw Emslie flick on for Jenna Clark, but the Liverpool defender couldn't steer it home with the net ready to bulge. And then just before the hour mark, fine interplay between Lisa Evans and Martha Thomas allowed Emslie to flash an effort inches wide of the right hand post as Scotland took control in Leuven.

Substitutes Amy Gallagher and Hanson would then combine well on 75 minutes but the former could only fire wide from an excellent cross left wing cross. However, despite large spells of dominance, Scotland were unable to grab the winner that would have given them the chance to leapfrog, and ultimately relegate, the Lionesses on Tuesday.

While the result ultimately renders the clash with the Lionesses meaningless due to Scotland ending their inaugural Nations League campaign bottom of the group, the merited point in the cold Belgian night will give them a shot in the arm - and when is Scotland vs England ever really meaningless?



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