Scotland 1-1 Belgium: Reaction from Hampden Park as injury time strike rescues point for Scotland
Scotland Women left it late to secure a 1-1 draw against Belgium the UEFA Nations League but failed to replicate their recent good form on a trying night Hampden Park.
Scotland had forgotten what defeat tasted like after an impressive four game winning streak but as the players boarded the coach at around 11pm at the Stadium Of Light following their narrow 2-1 defeat to England on Friday, there was a feeling those who hadn't given them a hope against the European Champions had been silenced and the best was yet to come.
If last week's game was a chance to show fans they could compete against the world's top nations though, then tonight's clash with a Belgian side ranked just five places above them in the FIFA rankings was seen as a chance to make a real statement of intent.
However, the optimism culminated from a collection of excellent performances under Martinez Losa in 2023 was sadly missing both on and off the pitch, with Scotland producing a performance akin to the toned down atmosphere of the Hampden crowd which failed to spark into life until Sophie Howard's 94th minute header that cancelled out Kassandra Missipo 52nd minute opener.
The source of creativity
With key player Caroline Weir forced off the pitch in the first 15 minutes after an awkward fall, Scotland seemed devoid of spark in a game that never found the flow the home side would have welcomed.
The brilliance of the Real Madrid forward so often the source of creativity, a new way to win was required but the lack any real cutting edge was evident, with opportunities in the final third coming at a premium.
A front three of Kirsty Hanson, Claire Emslie and Martha Thomas added plenty of effort but the quality fed into them was too often nullified against a competitive and industrious Belgian midfield. Substitute Lauren Davidson added tempo but it was the away side who would produce the best opportunities on the break.
A disappointing drop off in atmosphere
A lacklustre night was solidified by a poor attendance at Hampden Park that saw the stands less than a fifth full. Even more frustrating for the team was that the bulk of the noise was made by a tiny contingent of Belgian fans who'd made the journey.
Almost 1,000 Tartan Army fans packed the away end at the Stadium Of Light on Friday and were as loud and passionate as I've ever seen for the Scottish Women's national team and the team can't fail to have been buoyed on by it. The sense of occasion may not be as big as an Auld Enemy derby, but quite why the drop off in the atmosphere was so big is concerning.
Despite the disappointment of tonight's performance, under Martinez Losa, the Scottish Women's national team have grown immeasurably in the past 12 month with the Spanish head coach slowly moulding a side capable of troubling some of world's top ranked nations and one that could finally see themselves at a major tournament come Euro 2025.
There's been a noticeable shift in momentum on the pitch for Scotland recently and tonight's dull atmosphere was almost as disappointing as the result. Could moving games around the country to allow newcomers to invest while also inspiring the nation's youngsters be a viable option? It is certainly one to think about.
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