Belarus all but extinguished the last embers of Scotland's World Cup qualifying campaign in a goalless game in Minsk. It was a solid enough defensive display from Scotland but they rode their luck at times before finishing strongly, with Graham Alexander unlucky with a late effort that was deflected over the top. However, the bottom-line is a point was not enough to revive Scotland's World Cup dream. Walter Smith made two changes from the team that beat Moldova on Saturday with Gary Caldwell returning from suspension to replace the banned Paul Hartley and injury victim Jackie McNamara's place going to Christian Dailly. James McFadden was left on the bench.
Scotland played with only Kenny Miller up front but too often passes were aimlessly fired forward in search of the striker. The Scots did not manage a single shot at goal in the first half and, while Belarus rarely threatened in a poor match, it needed a more positive approach. The home side started busily enough with Aleksandr Hleb pulling the strings in midfield but it was not until midway through the first half that Craig Gordon touched the ball, and that was to pluck a harmless cross out of the air. Yuri Zhevnov had a couple of crosses to deal with in the first half but did not have a direct shot to deal with. Steven Pressley picked up the first booking of the match for a crude challenge on the touchline and it means he will miss the next qualifier against Italy at Hampden. Belarus stepped up the pace towards half-time. Hleb darted into the Scotland penalty area but pulled his final shot well over the top. Then, a poor clearance from Gordon gave them their best opening of the half when Sergei Omelyanchuk picked out the unmarked Valentin Belkevich at the back post but he volleyed well over the top. Omelyanchuk tried his luck a minute before the interval with a left-foot shot from 20 yards which drifted narrowly over the crossbar.
Denis Kovba had the first shot on target two minutes into the second half but Gordon dealt with it comfortably. Scotland responded and Dailly looped a header well wide in what was their first serious attempt at goal. Miller had the best chance of the game so far when Darren Fletcher put him through but he lashed his right-foot shot straight at Zhevnov. Sergei Gurenko then forced Gordon to leap to his left to divert his shot for a corner as the game opened up. Scotland were under the cosh at this stage and Gordon had to be alert again to smother a shot from Vitali Bulyga after substitute Vyacheslav Hleb split the visiting defence. Gordon produced the save of the match with 13 minutes left when he blocked a netbound shot from Omelyanchuk.
Belarus: Zhevnov, Kalachev (Vjatscheslaw Hleb 61), Yaskovich, Omelianchuk, Shtanuk, Gurenko, Kovba, Belkevich, Bulyga (Kulchy 86), Aleksander Hleb, Kornilenko
Subs Not Used: Khomutovsky, Tarlovsky, Ostrovski, Cheljadinskij, Sascheko
Scotland: Gordon, Weir, Pressley, Webster, Gary Caldwell, Dailly, Fletcher, Ferguson, Alexander, McCulloch (McFadden 76), Kenny Miller
Subs Not Used: Marshall, Steven Caldwell, Thompson, Murray, Riordan, Lee Miller
Booked: Pressley, Dailly
Ref: Olegario Benquerenca (Portugal)
Ger Harley (email@example.com)