U21s - VDH view from Livingston
Updated Thursday, 19th February 2004
Vanderhogg's view of a cold night in an empty stadium
What with the financial crisis that is facing Scottish football at the moment, the emphasis is now on producing our own cheaper version of footballers rather than import the expensive Johnny Foreigner variety. With this in mind, the 2-1 defeat at the hands of Hungary is not the best result we could have hoped for, for our future stars. After all, they are the future of our game.
There was a sense or irony at the venue of Rainer Bonhof’s next challenge as manager of the National under 21 set up. If the future of Scotland is our own youth then surely playing at the City stadium in Livingston, where the administrators are currently asset stripping due to over expenditure on the Johnny Foreigner type player, is as good a place as any to bin the old policy and role in the new one.
Scotland lined up with what is regarded as a mixture of the best young talent in Scotland. What unfolded however was, if compared to the previous evening in Hull for example, was 2 hours of boredom on the park and a showing of why the game has disintegrated into apathy in Scotland.
It took only seven minutes for Scotland to create their first chance, when Aberdeen’s Brian Prunty brought off a good save from Hungary’ s keeper, Marton Fulop, after some good work down the left from Hibs’ Garry O’ Connor. This bright opening continued when Simon Lappin slammed a ferocious shot of the top of Fulop’s bar, with the keeper all but stranded.
For all their good work in the early stages though there was a real lack of penetration and punch about Scotland at this stage and the longer the first half went on the more the visitors looked comfortable and slowly took more and more possession.
This stable period by the Hungarians was undone however in the 29th minute when Scotland won what seemed an innocuous penalty. A free-kick swung in from the right hand side had caused a minor flurry in the Hungarian penalty box and the resultant pointing to the spot by the referee seemed harsh on the visitors as there had been no appeal from anyone in a dark blue jersey. Not prepared to argue the fact, Shaun Maloney coolly stroked it home from twelve yards.
Graeme Smith, the young Rangers keeper, had to look lively right on the stroke of half time to deal with a wicked free kick thrown in from Csasba Regedei, but this apart, Smith had very little to do as Scotland maintained the bulk of possession – if not being too spectacular or cunning with it.
For the second half Bonhof rang the changes bringing on Celtic’s David Marshall in goal, replacing Smith, and adding John Dempster, Alexander Diamond, Peter Sweeny and Craig Beattie to the fray. Hungary also made three changes at this time which made for an almost farcical feeling to proceedings.
Scotland started the second half the way they finished the first with them retaining a rake of possession, without really doing anything with it. Bonhof then added to the bulging list of substitutions when he took off Simon Lappin of St Mirren and replaced him with Scott Morrison of Aberdeen in a bid to get the killer second goal.
The early skirmishes in the second half, however, belonged to the visitors as they slowly but surely crept into the game, although, like Scotland, they never really produced any real clear cut chances and in fact both sides simply looked stale.
This was to continue for most of the second half with neither side really able to put their foot on the ball and stamp their style of play on proceedings. The more the game continued the more it looked like Maloney’s strike would be enough to claim victory for the Scots.
As the game wore on there was much huffing and puffing by Scotland, but, again, there was not much penetration in anything they done, although Craig Beattie had a great chance to increase Scotland’s lead and secure the match when he rounded the keeper on the edge of the box, only for him balloon his effort over the bar.
This miss was a costly one as with only five minutes to go Hungary pulled an unlikely equaliser out of the bag. After some good work, again, down the right hand side, the resultant cross caused enough problems to allow the ball to break to Zoltan Varga who was left with the relatively easy chance to score after Marshall had committed himself and left the goal open, although Alexander Diamond almost stopped the ball entering the net.
If that goal was harsh on the Scots, then what followed was downright undeserved as Hungary amazingly took the lead on 90 minutes. A chaotic scene in the Scottish box was punished as Scotland failed to clear their lines on several occasions and allowed Zoltan Jovanczai to turn, shoot and score an incredible winner for the visitors.
The defending was farcical to say the least – and it would have been amusing, if it were another international side we were watching. However, to say this was harsh on the Scots was an understatement. It had hardly been a legendary performance by the home side, but to lose in this manner was undeserved.
For most of the game it had been a case of both sides canceling each other out and the Hungarians drawing level would have probably left the score-line looking fair. But as it was, Scotland were left ruing the casualness that had cost them two goals in the dying minutes of the match.
Coach Rainer Bonhof was philosophical at the end of the match, even allowing himself a draw on a cigarette as he spoke the congregated hacks that had gathered looking for answers.
"We played well over sixty five – seventy minutes", commented the German, "But we had to make a lot of changes and I had to do that to get a better overview of the players that have come in, and when you do that the rhythm is lost".
Scotland had indeed made a lot of changes with no fewer than nine changes throughout the match, and this could indeed have had a lot to do with the lackluster manner in which Bonhof’s side finished the match.
Like his German compatriot Berti Vogts had to do with the full International squad, Bonhof looks like he will have to go through an experimental phase to find out what his best options are with his current crop of players.
SCOTLAND: Smith; Lawson, Lappin, Kennedy, Dowie; McCunnie Foy, Wilson, O’Connor; Maloney, Prunty.
HUNGARY: Fulop; Vasko, Rodenbucher, Takacs, David; Vanczak, Regedei, Nogradi, Hustzi; Jozsi, Varga.