Scotland Drop Points to Czechs After Ridiculous Referee Gifts Late Penalty
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We needed the win, we were in front twice and thought the points were in he bag with injury time left to play; Unfortunately for us, fate conspired to deal us the underhand yet again in the qualifying stages of a major competition.
Scotland were within the allotted three minutes of extra time after 90 minutes; they were inches away from the win and three points they needed to force themselves back into the pole position of second spot in group I, in the European Championships qualifying stages.
Strangely though, the Dutch referee decided to inflict the ultimate injustice upon the Scots team by allowing himself to be conned into awarding a penalty kick to the Czech Republic when Jan Rezek went down like he'd been shot after Danny Wilson went into a challenge, in the box, but clearly did NOT make contact with the diving Czech.
The referee was in clear view of the incident so it's unsure why he gave such a decision, which was buried into the top of the net to give the visitors a well-deserved draw in the game.
It can't be argued that the Czech's probably deserved something from the match as they had many more opportunities throughout the 90 minutes. The galling thing for Scottish fans was that no matter how they had managed to get the lead, they were leading at the point the match seemed to be grabbed from their grasp and had it been a legitimate goal, there would be no argument.
The real point that is now sticking in the throats of all Scottish football supporters is the rejection of an almost carbon-copy penalty claim just two minutes later in the Czech box, except this time there was contact made on Christophe Berra as he burst into the area. For some reason—as yet unexplained—the referee decided to book the Scotsman for diving instead of giving a penalty.
Now in most games, either penalty would have been soft—there's no argument there—but there has to be consistency when the man in the middle makes decisions.
In this instance it could spell the end of Scotland's bid for qualification to the European Championships next summer, and therein lies the problem. All we ask for is for the officials to show a knowledge of the game, to be fair and just. Unfortunately that wasn't the case in today's match at Hampden.
It might sound bitter and resentful but as stated previously, I believe that the Czechs deserved something from the game and had the goal been scored in a legitimate manner, there would be no accusation of cheating.
It was a deja vu moment when it happened and brought back the agony of watching a Spanish referee give a wrongly given free kick to Italy in the same competition four years ago, which was subsequently scored to end Scotland's campaign that year as well.
The match was pre-empted by Craig Levein's comments that he was willing to shoulder the burden of weight for Scottish football after the recent club sides failure in European competition. This did not help relieve the pressure upon the players who knew nothing but a win was good enough.
Scotland opted for Kenny Miller playing as the sole attacker but with five midfielders which included Charlie Adam starting his first competitive match in Scotland colours.
The match started brightly for Scotland but it was the Czech Republic that took the initiative and the visitors should have been two goals up after only six minutes after a couple of glorious chances were squandered; The Scots breathed a collective sigh of relief that they had remained with a clean sheet so early in the game.
Scott Brown was to earn himself an early yellow card after a tackle on Tomas Rosicky, which rendered him inert for the remainder of the match but also for the next match after he reached the limit for discipline within the competition. Kenny Miller was also to receive another yellow later in the match that would also see him miss the match on Tuesday night against Lithuania.
The story of the first half read badly for the Scottish skill factor, bad first touches, poor under pressure and with no real attacking prowess. Their failure to win one-on-one battles was also holding them back immensely in their fight for supremacy and the opening goal.
Fletcher, sporting a beard and without a first team start this season with Manchester United due to illness, was playing a captain's role, and as such ended up assisting his side with the opening goal only one minute before the half time whistle. The Man United midfielder was to win the ball just outside the Czech box and played in Miller on the left whose shot squirmed under the keepers foot and into the bottom right hand corner of the goal much to the delight of the 50,000 strong tartan army.
Chances came for both sides in the second half, with Scotland forcing into the play in a manner that was missing in the first 45 minutes.
Despite this vast improvement in the second half, Scotland failed to increase the scoreline and were punished for this on 78 minutes when a Czech cross from the right failed to be intercepted, and appeared to strike the visiting attacker's stomach to end in the net and equalise the match.
However Scotland were to show their mettle and only four minutes later found themselves back in the lead when a brilliantly weighted pass from Kenny Miller on the left found captain Fletcher running in at the back post to meet the ball and slot home from eight yards out to once again give his side the lead.
At this point it looked like Fletcher would have won the match, but no one was to be ready for the inexplicable decision of the referee.
The first penalty came as much of a shock as the second one didn't and with these decisions, they more or less ended Scotland's participation in the competition.
Scotland now have three matches left to play—Tuesday night at home to Lithuania, next month against Lichtenstein and then away to Spain. For any chance for progression we must win the next two matches and hope to take something from Spain—a tall order in any sense of the word.
The Czechs are now five points clear of Scotland but only have two matches remaining, the first of which is away to Lithuania, their second match is at home to Spain but realistically need only the one point from both these matches to take the coveted second spot that will allow them into a playoff spot for a shot at the competition proper next summer in Poland & Ukraine.
Things did not go as planned for Scotland today and they can only go about winning their remaining matches in the hope the Czechs drop points. Only then can today's wrongs be righted, and that can only start on Tuesday night with a win for Scotland over Lithuania.
Marc Roseblade is a Contributor for Bleacher Report as well as Not Just Scottish Football and youth development reporter for Ayr United Football Academy. All quotes are obtained first-hand unless otherwise stated.
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