Scotland U21 2 - 0 Netherlands U21: Feelgood factor grows
Or maybe, like their senior team, the Netherlands simply don’t have the talent pool they have been accustomed to selecting from for the last four decades or so. Either way, few people saw this result coming.
In the end, though, the victory was thoroughly merited and, while the Scots did not exactly pull up trees last night, there were sufficient grounds for encouragement for manager Scot Gemmill.
The hosts began brightly and had the first chance of the evening when John Souttar volleyed wildly over from a Dom Thomas corner.
When the Dutch last came to Scotland in this age group – just three years ago – they thrashed their hosts 6-1 but they were less unwelcome guests here.
St Mirren’s Lewis Morgan dragged a shot wide from 18 yards after being set up by the impressive Thomas and then the local man dispossessed Pablo Rosario before sending an angled drive inches past the far post.
The Netherlands took their time to find their feet in an attacking sense, but when Iain Wilson made a hash of a clearance, PSV Eindhoven striker Steven Bergwijn rattled a drive against Ryan Fulton’s left-hand post.
Even so, the first save of the evening came from Joel Drommel when he had to be alert to keep out Scott McKenna’s header from a Stephen Mallan free-kick.
The visitors’ patience too often looked like prevarication and, while they looked comfortable enough while in possession, they did little in terms of creativity, although Rosario went close with an effort from distance just before the break.
Unfortunately for the spectators on a bitterly cold evening, there was little happening on the pitch to warm them.
McKenna came close again on the hour with a header from Mallan’s corner which drifted wide of the far post, where Souttar only just failed to apply the finishing touch.
Fortunately, the deadlock was broken just two minutes later when Rick van Drongelen failed to clear another set-piece delivery from Mallan and Oliver Burke, West Bromwich Albion’s £15 million signing from RB Leipzig, drove home the rebound from six yards.
Those spectators bracing themselves for a Dutch response were pleasantly surprised when it failed to materialise.
Scotland’s previous goal at this level came in March of last year (from Hibernian’s Jason Cummings in a 3-1 home win over Northern Ireland) but, luckily, we did not have to wait so long for the next one.
Once again, dilatory Dutch defending played a part. On this occasion Rosario was well short with an attempted headed passback to his goalkeeper and Barnsley playmaker Mallan, relishing his return to his old St Mirren stamping ground, seized on the loose ball to lash it behind Drommel.
It was enough to give the Scots the perfect start to what is likely to prove a difficult European Championship qualifying campaign.