Rainer Bonhoff yesterday registered his first win as Scotland U21 coach as they defeated a sprightly Israel side 2-1 at the Ballast Stadium in Hamilton. The match proved a good one, with both Allan McGregor and Andy Dowie receiving further under 21 recognition under the German coach.
Surreal would be a good word to use as I got to the Ballast Stadium in Hamilton this evening for Scotland’s U21 match against the Israeli kids. As I did when I travelled to the same stadium for the Youth Cup Final earlier in the year, I managed to get lost in the jungles of Hamilton. However, the sight of a 4x4 driving through Hamilton with a Palestinian flag poking out the top showed me the way.
The game had suddenly become a mere sideshow to the demonstration by "pro-Palestine" supporters, who were supposedly thoroughly against the arrival of a bunch of kids from Israel. The demonstration was expected to be 300 people and if you managed to see the press statement from the "Friends of Palestine", you would see that the people involved are no more than the usual "rent-a-mob" crowd of the sun-tan kid Tommy "two-jobs" Sheriden and co.
It is rather pathetic that a so-called organisation feels the need to protest at a footballing event over reasons they probably don’t fully appreciate, yet will not picket the Israeli Embassy. Rather predictably, more than one of the usual crew around the websites from the "other" side of the city was part of the crowd, trying to cling onto a political agenda. In fact, later in the ground there were more than one Celtic scarf in the demonstrators. Where are we seen that before?
However, the 300 strong gang of policemen and 90 stewards frisked and searched Vanderhogg. Surely they would know I was of sound character and mind?! I have to say, that thanks to the lunatics from the "rent-a-mob" asylum, this is the first time that I’ve experienced this whilst reporting on a game.
The protesters booed and jeered their way through the Israeli national anthem. It’s interesting to note that the Scottish fans applauded it at the end in defiance of the cretins that were trying to promote the political agenda of a country that most of them have never been to.
Anyway, a football match (in case you’ve forgotten) was to actually take place.
Only 2 minutes had gone and Scotland threatened, only for the referee to pull the play back for a foul on Stewart. McFadden’s curling free-kick was well saved by Sekel in goal. However only a minute later, a Stewart corner found the smallest man on the park and Shaun Maloney headed home.
Scotland 1 Israel 0
Soon after, the political morons lovingly chanted "scum, scum" at eleven Israeli kids. One can only presume that the number of muggings in the West of Scotland lowered during the match......
After 10 minutes, Duff cut the ball back to the impressive James McFadden who flighted a superb chipped ball to Pearson for a free header. Unfortunately the header was too straight and the keeper saved well. As the Israelis broke, McCunnie chopped down Felix Barda and was booked for the late challenge. The resultant move was sopped well by Rangers rookie Allan McGregor.
On 14 minutes, Degu slipped through a superb pass to Felix Barda to score. The Israelis were understandably delighted, whilst the chants of "scum, scum" reigned down again. Charming lot those "demonstrators". However, getting back to the football, it was a fine goal and well deserved.
Scotland 1 Israel 1
Hammell fed McFadden on 25 minutes and his cut back almost found a blue jersey, but in truth he could have been aiming from either set of players as the fading light was not complimented by one of the floodlights not working. The work of the Bellshill branch of the PLO? Maybe, but the game was in danger.
Only a couple of minutes later, Golan left the park to be replaced by Mashiach. Straight away following a Pearson foul, McFadden managed to "tangle" with Cohen and Chonen was left on the floor. Subsequently McFadden was booked.
A huge cheer went up around 34 minutes as the floodlights went on as there were real fears of abandonment. The problem turned out to be a blown fuse in the pie stall! Just hope they were kosher?? Israel responded with a curling freekick that narrowly went over McGregor’s goal.
Howls of "penalty" on 38 minutes as Michael Stewart burst into the box. However in reality he looked to be playing dodgems with the defence and maybe was looking for the spotkick.
The Scots grabbed a late corner as Pearson fed Hammell, whose cross was met at a tight angle by Maloney. This was blocked however and the corner wasted, despite the obvious threat of Dowie and Doig.
Half time: Scotland U21 1 Israel U21 1
For the second half Gordon, Caldwell and Kennedy replaced McGregor, McCunnie and Dowie.
6 minutes into the second half, Duff cut back for McFadden who dummied (!) the ball well (or missed it completely) before shooting straight at the keeper. Only a minute later Kennedy unleashed a superb drive that was just wide.
The Israelis had a good shout for a penalty as Kerr tackled Felix Barda from behind in the area. The Israeli forward was incensed as the referee waved play on.
On 55 minutes Michael Stewart, the impressive Manchester United youngster, drove towards goal and beat the keeper. The Scottish fans exploded into life, only to sit down sheepishly as they realised the ball had gone behind and not in. Scotland were now well on top as Maloney backheeled to Stewart, and Stewart’s shot was blocked.
However the Israelis won a freekick on 59 and Ohayon curled the ball off the bar from 25 yards. This seemed to be Israel’s best route to goal as they won another free kick on 65 minutes. Luzon curled it into the wall and it dropped just the wrong side of the post.
After this, the best player on the park in McFadden went off to be replaced by Simon Lynch.
Some neat play by Degu and Feliz Barda carved out a great opening for Israel. The ball was played out to Luzon whose left foot cross just evaded everyone to run for the throw-in.
Israel should have gone in front on 77 minutes as Gazal fed Felix Badra through on goal. He seemed to panic and only found a Scots defender.
Scotland won a corner on 84 minutes. Michael Stewart swung in a dangerous cross that John Kennedy met superbly well to power a header home. Scotland didn’t deserve to be ahead, but took it happily.
Scotland 2 Israel 1
The game should have been squared once more as Israilevich fed Felix Barda between two defenders. With Gordon rooted to his spot, the Israeli number 10 shaved the wrong side of the post and the chance (and the game) was gone.
Full time: Scotland U21 2 Israel U21 1
An eventful game and more than adequate as a friendly as there was a good pace and needle about it. Just a shame that tonight was the night when the lunatics took over the asylum. I only hope for the Euro 2008 bid’s sake that the world, and more importantly UEFA is not watching. Otherwise they would not get the message of "Welcome to Scotland".
Scotland U21: McGregor (Rangers), McCunnie (Dundee United), Hammell (Motherwell), Dowie (Rangers), Doig (Notts Forest), Kerr (Newcastle United), Duff (Dundee United), Pearson (Motherwell), McFadden (Motherwell), Stewart (capt - Manchester United), Maloney (Celtic)
Subs: Gordon (Hearts - 45, McGregor), Caldwell (Newcastle United - 45, McCunnie), Kennedy (Celtic - 45, Dowie), O’Brien (Livingston - 78, Pearson), McLean (Rangers), Lynch (Celtic), McManus (Hibernian), Soutar (Dundee)
Coach: Rainer Bonhoff
Israel U21: Sekei (MS Ashod), Yocov Moosa (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Abo Siam (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Mishaeloff (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Cohen (Hapoel Petah Tikva), Gazal (Maccabi Natanya), Ohayon (MS Ashod), Luzon (Hapoel Petah Tikva), Degu (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Felix Barda (capt - Hapoel Beer Sheva), Golan (Maccabi Petah Tikva)
Subs: Shivon (Hapoel Petah Tikva), Biton (Beitar Jerusalem), Israilevich (Maccabi Haifa), Mashiach (Maccabi Petah Tikva), Azu (Hapoel Jerusalem), Hofi Nir (Hapoel Rishon Le Zion), Attia (Beitar Jerusalem)
Referee: John Feighery (Republic of Ireland)
Asst Referees: Kevin Murray; Hugo Whoriskey (Republic of Ireland)
Fourth Official: Michael McCurry (Scotland)
Man of the Match: Elyaniv Felix Barda (Israel number 10)