|Craig Levein was not pleased with the tactics employed by Lithuania in last night's opening game in Group I of the EURO2012 qualifying stages played in Kaunas. The Scotland manager will also not be adding Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakira to his Christmas card list after the game ended goalless. Levein felt the hosts set out to interrupt the flow of the game with numerous fouls, which only resulted in three yellow cards. Scotland, who had Lee McCulloch and Scott Brown booked, dominated possession but failed to make the most of several decent opportunities. Levein was proud of his players' efforts but perturbed by the lack of firmness from the officials. Alan Hutton reacted angrily to a bad foul by Kestutis Ivaskevicius in the final minutes as Scotland were pushing for a winner and Levein shared the full-back's frustration.
The manager said: "The biggest disappointment was, whenever we got any momentum, it was free-kick after free-kick. Guys in their team had five or six fouls and didn't get booked. It baffled me that they only ended up with three bookings. It was ridiculous. The challenge at the end on Alan Hutton was outrageous. I think it must have been a plan that whenever we got any momentum they gave away a foul. That's frustrating - Brown got booked for his first foul. It was a tactic - there is not a lot we can do about it but it's important the referee looks after that side of the game. The way the game panned out I think we deserved more but I'm not disappointed because we got a point away from home. I said when the group was drawn that our nearest challengers for second place would be Lithuania and Czech Republic and we have picked up a point against one of them away from home. It's not the end of the world - we were the better side and just lacked a goal. The biggest pleasing factor was the effort the players put in. It was important we showed everyone over here and back home that we really are proud to be involved in the Scottish national team."
Levein's decision to pick Steven Naismith ahead of James McFadden was based on his plan to win the ball back as far up the park as possible. But the selection still came as a shock to the Rangers midfielder, who was not even involved in Levein's first two squads. Naismith said: "I was very surprised. I've just been trying to work away with Rangers and do well and the manager has picked me for the squad. I just thought I was going to come and get a bit more experience travelling with the squad but it was great to get the opportunity. Faddy has contributed more than enough throughout the years and been a great servant. I'm sure the manager will know the games to pick him. In games like that he has made it clear he wants a solid base."
Naismith could have done better with two decent chances from the edge of the box. The first came in the 59th minute when his 20-yard strike lacked the pace and direction to trouble the home goalkeeper. And another opportunity almost fell for him in the final stages but he failed to get a shot away. The former Kilmarnock player said: "It was very disappointing. As I saw it get flicked on I knew it was coming to me and I thought this is a good chance. But it's not got out of my feet and before you know it the defender has closed you down. That's the difference in international football."
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
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