Despite what manager George Burley described as an "outstanding" second half performance, Scotland heading to Iceland from Macedonia without the need to find space for three points in the team hampers. It took just five minutes for Scotland's hope of taking something from the games to start melting away in the heat of Skopje. Ilcho Naumoski's strike proved to be decisive as Srecko Katanec's men held on to claim another international scalp. The searing temperatures in Skopje had been the main talking point before the game and after the goal, Scotland chased the game but lacked the cutting edge required for the remainder of the game. George Burley had his preferred team in mind for several weeks ahead of this match and his starting XI revealed no real surprises. Kenny Miller and James McFadden both started and were given the task of getting the goals despite a less than inspiring partnership in last month's drab goalless friendly against Northern Ireland at Hampden. With West Brom's James Morrison injured, Barry Robson was in position in midfield alongside Celtic team-mates Paul Hartley and Scott Brown, as well as Manchester United's Darren Fletcher. As expected, stand-in skipper Stephen McManus was able to shake off a knock he picked up in last week's Old Firm derby to take his place in the heart of defence with Gary Caldwell. Hundreds of Scotland fans were prevented from seeing the game in situ as the Macedonian Football Association refused to allow entry to those with tickets for the home end of the City Stadium fearing for the safety of fans. They may consider themselves the lucky ones as the 1,000 travelling supporters who did manage to see the game witnessed the worst possible start when Scotland found themselves trailing with five minutes after the referee's whistle to start the game.
Graham Alexander tangles with Macedonia's Ilco Naumoski
Action Images/Lee Smith Livepic
The Macedonians earned a free-kick just outside the area when McManus was deemed to have fouled Goran Maznov and Goce Sedloski stepped up for the set-piece. His effort was touched on to the post by goalkeeper Craig Gordon but Naumoski pounced to rifle home the rebound from six yards. The Scots had a chance to hit back through a free-kick of their own when Graham Alexander was fouled by Robert Petrov but Robson's curling shot was weak and easily smothered by goalkeeper Petar Milosevski. Macedonia threatened again when Petrov provided a cross from the left for Goran Pandev but his ferocious volley cannoned off the body of Caldwell, denying the home side's star man the chance to add to their tally. Scotland then had a decent chance of their own when Fletcher set up McFadden and he embarked on a run which took him past several red jerseys only for his shot to be blocked by the body of Igor Mitreski, before the Birmingham striker nodded the rebound wide. At the other end, the home fans screamed for a penalty when Maznov went to ground under pressure from Gordon but the Macedonia man appeared to make the most of it and the pleas were ignored by referee Pavel Kralovec. Veliche Shumolikoski then released Maznov on a surging run which was halted by Caldwell. The ball broke to Pandev but he fired straight at Gordon in what proved to be the last real chance of the first half.
Scotland fans look dejected
Action Images/Lee Smith Livepic
Scotland tried to force their way back into the game after the break and Scott Brown drew a decent save from Milosevski with a well-struck shot from distance, before the heroics of Gordon prevented the visitors from falling further behind. A Pandev corner was cleared as far as Shumolikoski who unleashed a thunderous long range effort that the Scots keeper just managed to tip over the crossbar with one hand. Gordon then punched to safety a dangerous cross into the box from Pandev before Maznov could connect with a header at his right post. Scotland made their first change when Kris Commons replaced Hartley, before Gordon was again called into action to block a point-blank effort from Naumoski. Burley's men failed with their own claim for a penalty when Miller played through McFadden and he went to ground as the goalkeeper dived to claim the ball. No spot-kick was forthcoming and all McFadden earned for his protests was a yellow card from the Czech official. Miller was withdrawn for Rangers team-mate Kris Boyd with ten minutes to go as the Scots had one last throw of the dice but Macedonia held on for maximum points with Burley still seeking his first win as Scotland manager.
FYR Macedonia: Milosevski, Noveski, Petrov (Grncarov 78), Sedloski, Mitreski, Lazarevski, Georgievski, Shumulikoski, Maznov, Pandev (Tasevski 82), Naumoski (Trajanov 69)
Subs Not Used: Pacovski, Polozani, Demiri, Ristic
Booked: Naumoski, Shumulikoski, Pandev
Goals: Naumoski 5
Scotland: Gordon, Alexander, Naysmith, McManus, Caldwell, Hartley (Commons 65), Fletcher, Brown, Miller (Boyd 80), McFadden, Robson (Maloney 76)
Subs Not Used: McGregor, Broadfoot, Stewart, Berra
Ref: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic)