What a way to start an international career. Chris Iwelumo picked the wrong time to take his eye off the ball and miss an open goal at Hampden today and gain three vital points for Scotland from their World Cup qualifier against Norway. That miss and lack of real penetration by Scotland presented a frustrating 90 odd minutes for the Hampden crowd in a game they dominated for long spells which ended in a goalless draw. Iwelumo came off the bench in the second half in a bid to salvage the nation's hopes at Hampden - but will instead be forever haunted by the moment he missed the chance to be Scotland's hero. With both sides regarded as the strongest challengers for the runners-up spot behind favourites Holland, this was regarded as a vital game where a win was essential. Scotland have only four points to show from three games, and the chance booking their tickets to South Africa in 2010 is already hanging in the balance with a daunting trip to Holland to look forward to in March next year. With Stephen McManus suspended and Kris Commons injured, Burley made two changes from the win in Iceland, with James Morrison and David Weir both drafted into the team and Darren Fletcher wearing the captain's armband as he earned his 40th cap. Despite plenty of talk from the Scotland camp about the need for a positive approach to this game, Burley opted to deploy the less than tall James McFadden on his own up front, leaving both Kris Boyd and Iwelumo on the bench. Norway's back four towered over Scotland's forwards so I was fairly confident that Scotland would not be scoring many goals with headers. Norway were boosted by the news that Steffen Iversen had been passed fit while goalkeeper Jon Knudsen made his international debut for the Scandinavians.
Scotland dominated the opening spell, winning a couple of corners, before Kirk Broadfoot set up Morrison for the first real chance. The West Brom midfielder tried his luck from just inside the box but the shot was weak and comfortably collected by Knudsen in the Norway goal. The visitors had an excellent chance to open the scoring when the dangerous John Carew exchanged a one-two with Iversen before racing into the box, with only a timely intervention from Gary Caldwell preventing the towering striker from claiming the opener. Brede Hangeland then saw his downward header bounce past Craig Gordon's left post from a Fredrik Stromstad corner, although the Scotland keeper looked as though he had the header covered anyway. Norway threatened again when Carew burst past Caldwell and unleashed an angled drive which was parried by Gordon before John Arne Riise blasted the rebound well wide of target as the Scottish majority in Hampden breathed a collective sigh of relief. Stromstad then delivered a header to the feet of Carew in front of goal but good defending from Weir denied him a clean shot and his awkwardly struck effort was smothered by Gordon. Scotland could have snatched the lead before the break when McFadden whipped a great ball across goal for Morrison, who nodded agonisingly over from a tight angle.
Carew had established himself as Norway's biggest threat in the first half so it was no real surprise to see the Aston Villa forward bearing down on goal shortly after the restart, his shot swiped to safety at the near post by Gordon. With 51 minutes gone, Jon Inge Hoiland picked up the first booking of the game for hauling down Barry Robson as part of a scissor tackle and it proved to be a calculated risk worth taking, with Scotland failing to make anything of the free-kick. A lack of imposing threat up front resulted in a double substitution 10 minutes into the second half and Morrison and McFadden were both withdrawn for the introduction of Steven Fletcher and Iwelumo. The Wolves striker - making his first international appearance at the age of 30 - then squandered an incredible opportunity to mark his debut with a goal within minutes of being on the pitch. Gary Naysmith was the provider with a superb ball across the face of goal from the left flank and Iwelumo somehow missed the target from a few yards with the gaping net at his mercy, stunning the national stadium into silence. With time running out for a Scotland winner, Shaun Maloney attempted to place a swerving shot from distance into the keeper's far corner but the effort slipped past the upright instead. A full-stretch Fletcher and Iwelumo then both failed to connect with a Broadfoot ball that was begging to be stabbed home as the match ended in stalemate.
It went downhill from here
Scotland: Gordon, Broadfoot, Weir, Caldwell, Naysmith, Brown, Darren Fletcher, Robson, Morrison (Steven Fletcher 56), McFadden (Iwelumo 57), Maloney
Subs Not Used: McGregor, Alexander, Boyd, Hartley, Berra
Norway: Knudsen, Hoiland, Waehler, Hangeland, John Arne Riise, Bjorn Helge Riise (Braaten 56), Stromstad (Pedersen 76), Grindheim, Winsnes, Iversen, Carew
Subs Not Used: Jarstein, Skjonsberg, Elyounossi, Haestad, Haland
Booked: Hoiland, Iversen
Ref: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
Admin Team (admin@scottishfitba net)
This is ScottishFitba Net