There is some painful reading ahead so be warned that you may experience uncontrolled swearing when you realise that basically we will not be going to South Africa for World Cup 2010. Scotland's hope of picking six points out of three games disappeared when Gary Caldwell was sent off last night in Oslo's Ullevaal Stadium. Caldwell picked up two yellow cards within a minute in the first half, the second of which allowed John Arne Riise to fire in the opener from the resultant free-kick. When Morten Gamst Pedersen made it 2-0 seconds before the interval it was all but over for George Burley's side. A strike by Erik Huseklepp after the break just added to Scotland's misery and Pedersen scored a delightful free-kick right at the end to complete a miserable night for the Scots who drop to third in Group Nine behind Macedonia on goal difference. Scotland now need wins in their last two qualifiers against Macedonia and Holland at Hampden next month to have any chance of a play-off spot and on the evidence of last night's game, hopes cannot be high. YOu could argue that manager Burley got the team wrong in a 4-3-3 formation which was without James McFadden. Veteran Graham Alexander was handed a midfield role alongside Scott Brown was making his first competitive start of the season and Kenny Miller led the attack flanked by Kris Commons and Ross McCormack. Burley's team selection had surprised many but it suggested that the Scotland boss knew victory was essential.
Pederson scores Norway's second
There were around 3,500 of the Tartan Army in the Ullevaal Stadium and they may have had a goal to cheer in the sixth minute after John Carew sliced an attempted clearance from McCormack's corner across his own penalty area to Darren Fletcher. However, the Scotland skipper could not set himself quickly enough and sliced his volley from eight yards high over the bar. The first real contentious incident of the match came in the 27th minute when the home side looked to be denied a decent penalty claim when Carew went to ground inside the Scotland penalty area following a desperate challenge by Steven Caldwell. However, there much more drama to come six minutes later. A minute after Gary Caldwell had picked up a booking after clashing with Pedersen, he was dramatically sent off when referee Alain Hamar adjudged him to have fouled Carew 30 yards from goal. Scotland's misery was compounded in the cruellest way when Norway defender Riise rifled the free-kick past Marshall with the help of a massive deflection off Brown. Defender Christophe Berra immediately replaced McCormack as Burley tried to shore up his defence but with seconds remaining in the first half, Norway grabbed number two. With the Scotland defence stretched, Bjorn Helge Riise set up Pedersen who guided his left-footed shot from 14 yards past the helpless Marshall.
It looked a tall order for 10-man Scotland when the second half started and before two minutes had elapsed, Marshall had to block Carew's toe-poke when the Norway striker breached an unconvincing defensive line at the edge of the penalty area. In the 48th minute McFadden came on for Steven Caldwell, with Burley probably fearing he may have joined his brother in the dressing room after he had tempted referee Hamar by committing another foul. There was an element of desperation about Scotland as they chased around the Ullevaal Stadium looking for the spark that could ignite a fightback. But the game was put out of Scotland's reach on the hour mark after Carew had forced his way all too easily through Scotland's fragile defence. The big striker's stretched to get his shot away and although the ball hit both posts before rebounding back in to play, Huseklepp was on hand to bundle the ball in to the empty net. Burley's side were all over the place and only a despairing tackle by left-back Callum Davidson, wearing a Scotland jersey for the first time in almost seven years, prevented Bjorn Helge Riise driving home the fourth. Then, in the 67th minute Norway were denied a fourth when Carew's close-range effort from Pedersen's cross hit the bar and clearly bounced over the line but Marshall grabbed the ball and Hamar waved play on. As the minutes ebbed away, the Scots tired and when substitute Berra had to come off injured in the 77th minute, to be replaced by Steven Whittaker, it simply confirmed that it was not going to be Scotland's night. In the final minute, after Alexander had fouled Norway substitute Per Ciljan Skjelbred 25 yards out, Pedersen neatly curled in number four. Norway's first win of their Group Nine campaign brings them back in to contention for second place while Scotland have it all to do if they are to have any chance of reaching South Africa via the play-offs.
After the game a shell-shocked Burley said: "Whatever could have gone wrong tonight went wrong. Up to the sending-off, I thought we maybe had the better of it as far as chances were concerned. After the sending-off, they scored straight from the deflected free-kick. We conceded one with 10 men right on half-time, and then it was an uphill battle." Looking at Gary Caldwell's sending off the manager said: "I thought it was very harsh. Carew was pulling Gary, and Gary was trying to hold his own. I don't think he (the referee) realised he'd booked Gary Caldwell. The Norwegian players said he'd already been booked. It wasn't our night. Things went against us, decisions went against us. We've lost it but we've still got two games left. Up to the sending-off, it wasn't a problem. They had one chance and we had two or three." The Scotland boss is adamant two wins in Scotland's final two games against Macedonia and Holland will still be good enough for a play-off spot. He said: "I think six will be enough - I've always said that. Nothing's changed. Tonight's been a disastrous result but circumstances have dictated that. We can look for excuses, we can look for circumstances, but it's gone - we didn't get any points tonight. If we can't win our two games, we don't deserve to get in the play-offs."
Norway: Knudsen, Hogli, Waehler, Hangeland, John Arne Riise, Bjorn Helge Riise (Skjelbred 84), Grindheim, Pedersen, Hoseth, Carew (Helstad 84), Huseklepp (Iversen 76)
Subs Not Used: Jarstein, Reginiussen, Winsnes, Brenne
Booked: Carew, Hoseth, John Arne Riise
Goals: John Arne Riise 35, Pedersen 45, Huseklepp 60, Pedersen 90
Scotland: Marshall, Hutton, Davidson, Steven Caldwell (McFadden 48), Gary Caldwell, Graham Alexander, Darren Fletcher, Commons, Brown, Miller, McCormack (Berra 37), Berra (Whittaker 78)
Subs Not Used: Neil Alexander, Hartley, Maloney, Steven Fletcher
Sent Off: Gary Caldwell (34)
Booked: Gary Caldwell, Steven Caldwell
Ref: Alain Hamar
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
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