Despite dominating almost the entire 90 minutes, Scotland were relieved to emerge from a testing night at Falkirk Stadium with their World Cup hopes intact. Goals in each half by Erin Cuthbert brought relief after Belarus had scored with their only attempt of their Group 2 qualifying match.
The home side made two changes from the side which started the 3-0 win over Poland in the previous qualifier. Hibernian full-back Kirsty Smith and Chelsea’s attacking midfielder Erin Cuthbert came in for Jo Love and Fiona Brown.
Scotland started on the attack and could have had a goal after only two minutes. Kim Little swung in an inviting cross which just evaded Jane Ross and Jen Beattie at the far post. Ross then had a low shot saved by Belarus keeper Natalia Voskobovich, who was just about the busiest of the 22 players in the opening stages.
Wingers Lisa Evans and Claire Emslie had the beating of their full-backs with the opening stages nearly all played in the Belarus half and the Scots missed two great chances to go ahead in the 20th minute.
Caroline Weir, as she did on a number of occasions, surged through the middle and fed Cuthbert whose shot from 12 yards was parried by Voskobovich. The ball fell invitingly to Kim Little, but the Arsenal captain’s effort was weak when it looked easier to score.
Scotland paid for their lack of punch in front of goal midway through the half when, almost unbelievably, Belarus scored with their first attempt on goal. A decent effort by Karina Olkhovik from 20 yards caught out Lee Alexander and silenced the crowd.
The goal was a carbon copy of what happened in the game between the teams in Minsk last October, but on that occasion Ross equalised almost immediately. Uncannily, she looked to have done the same again but the home celebrations were stalled by an offside flag.
There was another double let-off for Belarus three minutes later. First Ross hit the post with a shot and from the rebound Evans struck a shot off the bar. The woodwork again came to the visitors’ rescue three minutes from the interval. This time Emslie was the unlucky player to strike the bar.
Just as it looked as if Belarus had held out, Scotland scored in time added on. Caroline Weir released Cuthbert, and with Voskobovich expecting a cross she was caught out by a shot from a tight angle which squeezed in at her near post.
Scotland brought on Fiona Brown for Emslie at the start of the second half and piled the pressure on the visitors from the outset with central defenders Rachel Corsie and Jen Beattie both going close. Little then had another great chance, but again her effort from inside the box was weak and another great chance was lost.
Some of the momentum had gone out of the Scotland attacks when Cuthbert again came to the rescue midway through the half. Great work down the left by substitute Brown provided the opportunity and Cuthbert calmly converted from close range.
Hibernian’s Lizzie Arnot came on for her first Scotland appearance in more than a year six minutes from time, replacing Evans, but it was an earlier replacement, Lana Clelland, who missed another late chance to give the scoreline a more realistic outlook.
The final score was a travesty, but as Shelley Kerr admitted, her side failed to take most of their numerous chances.
“On another night we would have scored six or seven goals and instead we’ve come away from the game 2-1,” said the Scotland head coach.
“We’ve created numerous chances and hit the woodwork three times so we’re doing the right things. We’re trying to play an attractive game but we’ve put ourselves under pressure by not taking the chances.”