Wolves defender rises high to level the scores as the Scots give a resilient display away from home to keep up their strong recent results in friendliesChristophe Berra’s sublime header earned Scotland a positive away result as they came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against Slovenia on Wednesday night.
The Wolves defender met Charlie Adam’s corner with a powerful header seven minutes before the interval, shortly after Andraz Kirm had given Slovenia the lead with an aerial effort of their own.
West Brom midfielder James Morrison produced a fine display, looking lively throughout, and he hit the post earlier on in the match after an excellent through ball by League Cup winner Adam.
Gary Caldwell captained Scotland for the first time as manager Craig Levein handed a first cap to Celtic full-back Charlie Mulgrew, while Cardiff striker Kenny Miller started on the bench after his Wembley exploits last Sunday.
Slovenia coach Slavisa Stojanovic, on his second game in charge, was without Hull City’s influential midfielder Robert Koren and Koln striker Milivoje Novakovic.
Scotland started brightly but it was Slovenia who had the first opening when keeper Allan McGregor denied Valter Birsa after a ball played through the middle by Josip Ilicic, before QPR’s Jamie Mackie drilled an early sighter wide from 20 yards for the Scots’ first chance.
Both sides seemed content to shoot from range early on; Morrison made a driving run through the Slovenia midfield before lofting a shot wide with the outside of his right foot. Ilicic then had an effort for the hosts, blasting a volley wide of McGregor’s post from just outside the area.
On 25 minutes the game sparked in to life; Adam found Morrison on the left-hand side of the area with a delightful chip, and the midfielder’s low drive was parried on to the post by Samir Handanovic.
Slovenia then almost took the lead immediately as Birsa’s free kick was well saved by McGregor.
The lively Morrison had another effort saved by Handanovic on 28 minutes when he latched on to Caldwell’s fine pass, but his shot was straight at the Slovenia keeper.
On 32 minutes the deadlock was finally broken. Right-back Miso Brecko floated a cross over at the second attempt, and Kirm rose above Russell Martin to nod low to McGregor’s left.
Scotland then levelled six minutes later after fine work by Mackail-Smith earned a corner, and Adam’s driven ball was met by Berra with a powerful header from 12 yards out to level.
Berra then nearly put Scotland ahead seconds later; this time from a long Adam free-kick, but he was unable to control his header and it sailed harmlessly high and wide.
Adam was replaced in the middle by Aston Villa’s Barry Bannan at half-time, with the Liverpool midfielder unlikely to last the full 90 minutes after Sunday’s Wembley exploits.
Berra and Birsa exchanged words early on in the second half after the Slovenia forward appeared to dive in the box under the defender’s non-existent challenge, before a Morrison cross-cum-shot cleared the bar at the other end.
Bannan then found himself in space after a strong run by James Forrest, and the Villa man warmed Handanovic’s palms with a well-struck drive, before McGregor watched a powerful Ilicic strike drift wide at the other end.
A few minutes later James McArthur was fouled by Marko Suler 25 yards out, and Mulgrew took over the set-piece duties in Adam’s absence, but his tame strike hit the wall.
Substitute Haris Vuckic drilled in a low effort from the corner of the box on 69 minutes, and Berra’s outstretched toe sent the ball for a corner which resulted in a chance on the edge of the area for Rene Krhin, but the midfielder was unable to find the target.
Robert Snodgrass, who replaced Mackail-Smith on the hour, made a fine run on 77 minutes, cutting into the Slovenia box from the right, but a chance failed to materialise as he tried to find McArthur in the box.
The Leeds captain then whipped in an excellent ball for Mackie, but his flicked header zipped past the post.
Slovenia went agonisingly close to winning it on 81 minutes as Suler’s flick fell to Dedic, whose 20-yard effort flicked McGregor’s far post as both sides saw out the draw.
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