SCOTLAND lost their unbeaten qualifying record in European Under-21 Championship qualifying, losing to France in Aberdeen.
Ricky Sbragia’s team, who started their campaign with a 2-1 win over Northern Ireland, were beaten by a strong French side which included Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman.
A goal either side of half-time and a red card for Ryan Gauld undid the young Scots, who otherwise went toe-to-toe with their powerful French counterparts.
Scotland threatened first when Sam Nicholson got goalside of the French defence and was picked out by Stuart Cummings’ through-ball – but his shot was blocked by the outstretched leg of Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte.
Sbragia’s side fell behind after 11 minutes in cruel circumstances. After patient play, early substitute Thomas Lemar broke down into the inside left channel and crossed to the back post, where Stephen Kingsley’s clearance bounced off Stuart Findlay and into his own net.
The Scots came back and Gauld displayed great technique in getting over the ball when volleying from 20 yards.
France doubled their lead eight minutes after the interval after Corentin Tolisso showed blistering pace to get into the Scotland box. With the risk of a foul high, such was the Lyon midfielder’s speed, Findlay could only force him wide – but the finish from a tight angle was too powerful for Hamilton.
Things got worse for Scotland when they were reduced to ten men. After losing the ball in midfield, Sporting Lisbon midfielder Gauld chopped down Lemar from behind as he led a France counter-attack and was dismissed by Italian referee Marco Guida.
Scotland got a goal back in injury time when Lawrence Shankland’s shot was blocked and Hearts’ Billy King prodded it in.
France refused to give the ball back for the game to restart and as players from both sides got involved things appeared to be getting out of hand, but Guida kept things under control.
Sbragia says Gauld will not need any kind of lecture from him about his red card.
The Scotland coach said: “He’s given the ball away in an area we talk about, where they shouldn’t be giving the ball away. What I saw from the dugout he lunged in. It’s one of those where [the referee] might book him or send him off.
“He got the red card so he’s disappointed and obviously we’re going to miss him because he’s a talented young player.
“I think Ryan knows [what he did was wrong], he doesn’t need me to reinforce it. I asked him if the referee said anything to him and he just said no, that the referee showed him a red card.”
France join Scotland on three points from two games. Group leaders Iceland – Scotland’s opponents at Pittodrie on Tuesday – have ten points from four matches.
Scotland Under-21: Hamilton, Paterson, Kingsley, Findlay, McGhee, McGinn, Christie, Nicholson (King 68), Slater (Shankland 58), Gauld, Cummings (McManus 78). Subs not used: R Fulton, J Fulton, Love, Hyam.
France Under-21: Hassen, Mendy, Laporte, Amavi, Pavard, Rabiot, Bakayoko (Lemar 8), Tolisso, Walter, Coman (Coco 23), Haller (Crivelli 90). Subs not used: Maignan, Guilbert, Lenglet, Jean.
Referee: Marco Guida (Italy). Attendance: 3,200