After the excitement of last week’s European Championship Elite Round for the Scottish men’s under-17 side, it was now the turn of the under-17s ladies to take center stage and show that they are as worthy of public adoration as much as their male counterparts.
Livingston’s Braidwood Motor Company Stadium hosted the Vauxhall International Challenge match. Scotland and their visitors, Sweden, played under tremendous sunshine, unusual for this time of year but welcome all the same.
Despite Sweden taking an early lead, Scotland rebounded to seal the 4-2 victory with a couple of double strikes each for Zoe Ness and Abbi Grant to earn the win for the hosts.
With Scotland women’s national coach Anna Signeul at the stadium to view the talent on show, the girls performed admirably on both sides and presented the watching public with an end-to-end exhibition of female football at its best.
Sweden took an early lead on a bizarre goal; Marija Banusic’s effort somehow squeezed under a plethora of players in the 6-yard area before finding an invisible tunnel under the Scottish keeper Chloe Logan and into the back of the net. The goal was the result of some early Swedish pressure, but the Scots' players still smarted from losing such a normally clearable ball.
Losing a goal on home soil seemed to spur the young home grown stars into life as they pushed forward looking for the equalizing goal.
On the 17-minute mark, on-fire Ness, who plies her trade for Cestria GFC, tried an audacious lob from 20 yards out that saw the Swedish keeper Caroline Hermansson stretch out and fingertip the ball over the bar, much to the disbelief of the Scottish striker.
However, the keeper’s blank sheet was soon to be sullied after Ness once again stepped up to set her sights on billowing the whiter than white net behind the keeper’s big gloves. The striker met the end of a perfectly weighted cross on the 6-yard line to fire home to the delight of her colleagues in navy blue to make the scoreline 1-1 after 27 minutes of play.
The game was free-flowing from end to end with many sterling performances on show from both teams participating in this challenge match. Sweden’s attack, including Sofia Wannerdahl on the left, was particularly dangerous moving forward with Scotland’s Ness and Grant both linking well up front and looking like scoring at every effort.
Scotland nearly took the lead on 34 minutes with a strike from five yards by Grant, but the ball was cleared from the line. This only prolonged the wait for the home side to go in front as Ness added her second of the match only 60 seconds later with a pinpoint header to the far away corner of the goal.
The roar of delight was evident around the stadium, showing the partisan nature of the support, but they also valued the nature and spirit in which the game was being played as both sides continued to press and push for more goals to thrill the watching fans.
A minute after scoring her second, Ness had another chance to add a goal. Yet, her close-range strike at the near post was pushed round the post and out for a corner, ending the action for the first half with the Scots in front 2-1.
The second period of play started the same way as the first ended, with the home side in the ascendancy within minutes of the restart, Carolina Richardson tried her arm at extending her side's lead, but her shot across the goal had no takers; the intent was there for all to see that the Scots were looking for more.
The game lit up on the 51st minute when Abbi Grant struck a screamer of a volley from 10 yards out into the top of the net, giving her side a 3-1 lead with just under 30 minutes remaining.
The two-goal advantage lasted only four minutes though, as the Scandinavians struck back with a strange and peculiar goal that flew into the back post area of the net direct from a corner on the left. The inswinger from Moa Pettersson seemed to evade everyone in its path and nestled nicely at the back post much to the amazement of everyone watching.
The game was nicely poised with 25 minutes remaining and further chances were made by both sides as the match progressed. Sweden’s Wannerdahl shot over, followed shortly afterwards by Hanna Sandstorm’s effort straight down the throat of Logan in goal. Despite these chances, the Scots stayed in the lead.
The Swedes were looking menacing as they pushed forward, looking for that all important goal that would draw them level. Tomros tried, and Sandstrom had another chance, but the Scots’ goalie stood firm in the wake of this torrent of efforts to break through her final wall of defence.
But, as the game was drawing its final breath, up popped Grant to glance home a header for Scotland. This ended the match as a competition and, moments later, the final whistle shrilled around the four stands with the final score standing at 4-2 for the home side.
It was yet another show of footballing technique and style from the young ladies that many players from the male playing fraternity could learn from.
Marc Roseblade is a contributor for Bleacher Report and Not Just Scottish Football. He works as PR for Ayr United Football Academy and Galveston Pirate Soccer Club. Marc’s main passions revolve around lower league, youth and women's football. You can follow Marc on Twitter @myscottishfitba