The lack of enthusiasm from the usually reliable Northeast Tartan Army contingent does raise the question why anyone would pay to watch what is basically an old-fashioned ‘B’ International, particularly in the freezing cold with a Champions’ League game available from the comfort of your sofa. However, a twelve-pack of German supporters created their own kleine curve in Pittodrie’s sparse Main Stand, a part of the stadium more used to the ruffling of travelling rugs, and their constant chanting helped to betray the emptiness of the stadium.
At the team line-ups, no surprise to hear the biggest cheer for Anderson, who settled into a defensive pairing alongside Lee Wilkie, who captained the side. It was a Wilkie slip that let Bayer Leverkusen’s Daniel Bierofka in for the first chance of the game in the fourth minute, but the shot deflected tamely into Neil Alexander’s hands. Wilkie almost immediately made up for that error, as he was a whisker away from connecting from an O’Connor flick-on from a floated free kick.
The first thirty minutes were generally scrappy, with Germany enjoying the lion’s share of possession without creating many clear-cut chances. Brian Kerr shot over from distance and a minute later Tom McManus smacked the ball off the crossbar in frustration after the referee failed to give Scotland advantage. Kerr was busy and effective in the middle of the park, and to these eyes was Scotland’s best player. His midfield partner Barry Nicholson however looked tiny compared to Germany’s relatively tree-like midfielders, and frequently looked a bit lost.
Germany’s attacks were limited to a couple of shots that dribbled into Alexander’s arms, and Scotland took refuge in simply aiming long balls at Garry O’Connor, which proved meat and drink for the German defence. After 42 dreary minutes Scotland won their first corner, when some good play from the hard-working McManus led to an interchange of passes with O’Connor. McManus played the ball across and the ball was knocked past by the German defence. However, McManus could not play the set piece past the first man, despite getting two bites at the cherry.
The pace lifted briefly, and a minute later O’Connor had a shot which he placed wide of the ‘keeper’s right-hand post. Germany swiftly moved forward, but this only served to set up a decent Scotland counter-attack. Anderson cleared the ball out of his own box from a German cross and the ball fell to Tom McManus. He ran with the ball up to the right of the penalty area and played the ball across the box where it found Nicholson. The Dunfermline midfielder lofted one into the area for Gray who weakly headed into the arms of Wolfsburg stopper Simon Jentzsch from 6 yards out.
Half Time: 0 – 0
Scotland brought on 19-year-old Blackburn striker Paul Gallagher in place of O’Connor at half time, and it only took him three minutes to make his mark. Jamie McAllister, anonymous in the first half, hoofed the ball forward in a way familiar to regulars at Pittodrie in the last few seasons. Gallagher controlled the ball superbly, beat his man in the penalty box and drove the ball across goal where it was cleared from a couple of yards out.
Two minutes later, McAllister played a free kick into the box from the right looking for his former Dons team mate Anderson but the ball was cleared for a corner. Moments after this, Gallagher fired a shot wide from the corner of the penalty area. While this was an ambitious effort, it was a welcome injection of endeavour from the youngster.
McAllister was booked in the 52nd minute due to some familiar theatrics from the Germans. From this moment on, Germany started to look the much more dangerous side, with their captain, Werder Bremen midfielder Fabian Ernst, taking control of the game and producing some powerful bursts from the centre of the park. Germany got down both wings effectively with McAllister in particular posted missing on a couple of occasions.
On 70 minutes, a free kick from Ernst flew just over the bar, and a minute later Hamburg’s Christoph Dabrowski earned another corner for the visitors after a superb surging move by the German midfielders. Ernst was again the focus of the action after 73 minutes as he showed some great skill then played a through ball to half time substitute Markus Daun who blasted his shot against the side netting. The bleach-headed and mulletted Daun had another chance three minutes later when played in by Bierofka but this time he shot across goal.
Scotland created a chance amidst the German pressure when a slip from Fahrenhorst let Andy Gray in to cross for Paul Gallagher, but Sven Muller got his head to the ball first right in front of goal. Three minutes later Markus Daun finally found his range. The young Bremen frontman turned on the edge of the box and drove a low shot past Alexander to give the German Future team a deserved lead. This was to prove the winning goal as ineptitude and the offside flag prevented any more scoring.
Final Score: Scotland 0 Germany 1
Safeway Man of the Match was given to Andy Gray, who put in a decent shift without causing Crawford, Miller, Hutchison, Dickov or McCann any sleepless nights in the run up to the Holland game. The Man of the Match to these eyes was German number 8 Fabian Ernst who looked like a class above most here. Honourable mentions go to Anderson and Wilkie, who looked very comfortable unless they were run at with pace, and Scotland needn’t worry too much if the referee in the play-off first leg is card-happy. Praise too for Newcastle’s Brian Kerr who was by far Scotland’s most creative player.
While Scotland were deservedly beaten, it must be remembered that it wasn’t a comfortable night for Germany either. Add to that that the Scots were missing several of the true Future talent, such as McFadden, Pearson, Hughes, Smith and McNaughton. The futures may not have been bright tonight, but the shades are on order.
Scotland Future: Neil Alexander, Stockdale, McAllister, Nicholson, Anderson, Wilkie, Kerr, Gray, Ian Murray, McManus, O'Connor
Subs: Stillie, Gallagher, Boyd, O'Brien, McGovern, McGuire, Wilson, Soutar
Germany Future: Jentzsch, Korzynietz, Bonig, Hertzsch, Maltritz, Borowski, Dabrowski, Ernst, Schroth, Engelhardt, Bierofka
Subs: Weidenfeller, Fahrenhorst, Schlicke, Kringe, Muller, Benschneider, Daun
Referee: Miroslav Liba (Czech Republic)