Scotland needed a draw, after wins over Turkey and Cyprus in the Elite Round to qualify for the European Championship, but they had not factored in the Italian referee and his Maltese assistant.
Scotland manager Billy Stark was unhappy at extremely harsh red cards for Celtic’s Robbie Deas and Rangers’ Stephen Kelly as well as Portugal’s opening goal, which appeared not to have crossed the line.
He said: “Portugal are a quality side, but our keeper was adamant the ball didn’t cross the line for the first goal. When you come away and play teams in their own country, you expect they will get the odd decision, but the ref’s ruined it. We are extremely disappointed the way the day has panned out. Both sending-offs weren’t red cards.”
The Scots were a goal down in the 18th minute in the most controversial of circumstances. Portuguese captain Romario Baro’s header was scooped out by Celtic goalkeeper Ryan Mullen, but Maltese assistant referee Edward Spiteri flagged for a goal, despite furious Scottish protests that the ball had not crossed the line.
The hosts doubled their advantage three minutes later when Benfica’s Umaro Embalo scored, and Scotland’s task was then made Herculean when they had two players sent off in two crazy minutes. First, Deas clearly won the ball in a 50/50 challenge but Italian referee Maurizio Mariani decided to show the Scot his second yellow card of the game and send off the Celtic defender.
Kelly then made a rash challenge on Nuno Tavares and was harshly shown a straight red card to end any last hopes of a Scotland comeback.
Porto midfielder Baro poked in his second goal of the game in the 73rd minute and Joao Mario added to the agony with a fine strike two minutes later.
SCOTLAND: Mullen; Houston, Mayo, Deas, Church (Shiels 88); Kelly, Watt (Burroughs 80), Henderson (Camp 56), Middleton (McInroy 88); Gilmour; Rudden (Mebude 80). Subs not used: Mair, Aitchison, Campbell, Cochrane.
PORTUGAL: Biai; Costa, Alvaro, Lourerio, N Tavares (T Tavares 79); Dantas (Ferreira 68), Capitao, Baro; Neto (Correia 58), Ramos (Camacho 68), Embalo (Mario 68). Subs not used: Valido, Ganchas, Vieira, Fernandes.