Undermanned Scotland Under-21s left to rue wastefulness after impressive start against Turkey

An undermanned Scotland under-21 side put up a brave fight in Turkey and, while they’ll be pleased with an opening match draw in their Euro 2023 qualification group, will feel they should’ve taken all three points after a 1-1 draw in Bursa.

Scotland forward Glenn Middleton scored but also missed a couple of opportunities to win the match late. Picture: SNS
Scotland forward Glenn Middleton scored but also missed a couple of opportunities to win the match late. Picture: SNS

Scot Gemmill’s unit took an early lead through Glenn Middleton and largely frustrated the home side, who were limited to a few scattered chances across the 90 minutes.

After Enis Destan squeezed home an equaliser with 15 minutes remaining it looked like Scotland would face a late onslaught, but instead it was the visitors who created four excellent chances to win the match.

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Considering the exclusion of all but one non-Scots based player from the squad – Athletic Bilbao’s Ewan Urain – due to travel restrictions into Turkey, it was a promising performance for the unit, who narrowly missed out on a spot at the World Cup in their last qualification campaign.

Lining up in an obdurate 4-4-2, Scotland got off to the ideal start with Middleton firing them in front in the eighth minute. His initial shot was saved by Ersin Destanoglu, but when Adam Montgomery retrieved the ball and sent in a cross, Middleton was free to calmly slot past the keeper with his instep.

As expected, the Turks soon began to dominate territory and possession but had a hard time breaking through the stubborn Scottish walls.

Baris Yilmaz almost had a tap-in after Ali Kaan Güneren burned Ben Williamson down the wing. The attacker was ready to finish the low cross before Calvin Ramsay intervened to nick it away. Gokdeniz Bayrakdar then rushed an impulsive attempt after Stephen Kelly was caught dallying in his own area.

It wouldn’t be until the final seconds of the period until Turkey properly threatened again with their best opportunity to that point. Ali Akman managed to get away from both Kelly and Stephen Welsh and crossed for Buyamin Balci arriving from full-back. His lack of striking expertise showed as he fired well over.

A clear sign of Turkey’s first-half frustrations manifested in a triple substitution at the break. It gave the home side a little more impetus, though it was Scotland who had the best chances after the restart.

James Scott will rue a poor finish after intercepting a slack kick-out from the goalkeeper. The Hibs loanee did better ten minutes later to turn his marker and fire on target, but Destanoglu was equal to it.

Having defended so well for the majority of the match, the young Scots will be bitterly disappointed with the goal which brought the scores level with 15 minutes remaining.

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After Ross Sinclair saved from Bayrakdar, a corner swung into the box wasn’t properly dealt with by the Scots centre-backs, allowing Destan to dribble a shot that agonisingly crept into the back of the net.

Scotland took the setback in stride and created four great opportunities to win the match in the dying minutes.

Substitute Zak Rudden was unlucky to see a powerful shot pushed away, but he should’ve done better when played through by Middleton, shooting into the feet of the advancing Destanoglu.

It was then Middleton’s turn to be denied as the Besiktas custodian made an impressive high block before the St Johnstone attacker, on loan from Rangers, fired another chance into the side netting from close range.

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