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Scotland 0-1 Netherlands : Burley's Battlers Left Ruing Missed Chances


Scotland's World Cup qualifier with the Netherlands at Hampden Park tonight began in cagey fashion, George Burley's men clearly conscious of the fine balance they would have to draw between attacking and defending against a team with the attacking quality of Holland.

However, any doubts about the sharpness of the men in orange, who have already sealed their place at next summer's finals, were dispelled in the fourth minute, when Dirk Kuyt struck a firm shot that rebounded off David Marshall's left-hand post.

The Scots looked tentative in response, but managed to win a corner in the seventh minute after a neat passage of play ended in Kenny miller's shot being deflected wide.

That seemed to give the Scots some confidence, and Scott Brown pushed an effort just wide in the tenth minute after a sweeping cross from the right from Alan Hutton. Holland continued to press as well though, as the game became to gather momentum and look perhaps a little more open than George Burley would have wanted.

The Dutch then began to knock the ball around with a little more confidence, with Scotland looking to keep their shape and try and hit quickly on the break, and they should probably have had a penalty after 16 minutes, when Nigel de Jong appeared to tug Kenny Miller to the ground as a Maloney free kick was delivered from the left.

The referee gave nothing except a corner though, and a little more spice was added when Arsenal's Robin van Persie clattered Manchester United's Fletcher, receiving a yellow card for his pains.

Maloney, in the side to replace the suspended James McFadden started to show some pace and tricks down the left as confidence began to grow and the Scots started to out more passes together and the tackles from both sides rattled in, with the crowd becoming more noisily involved in proceedings. The Dutch were always a threat though, and Marshall had to tip over a Wesley Sneijder long range effort on 23 minutes, and save from Arjen Robben a couple of minutes later.

At the other end, Miller struck the visitors' bar after turning his marker on the right of the Holland area, his shot looping over the keeper after 30 minutes. Naismith had the ball in the net soon afterwards, but had his effort ruled out for offside. It was a combination from that duo that then should have put the hosts into the lead.

Naismith's long range effort was tipped onto the post by Michel Vorm and then Miller, following up with the goal at his mercy, struck the ball against the prone keeper who did well nevertheless to block the shot. A period of probing by the Dutch followed, but Scotland never looked too threatened, and headed into the interval with things all square, wondering how on earth they were not in the lead.

The game swung back and forth in the early part of the second half, with both sides taking it in turns to attack without ever really creating a clear cut chance in a game that was now full of northern European passion and running from both sets of players.

A motivated looking Fletcher collected a yellow card after another heavy challenge, but the Manchester United man was becoming an increasingly influential performer and was the root of most of Scotland's attacks as the tension began to mount around the hour mark, when Dirk Kuyt powered a free header from a right wing corner over the bar.

Kuyt, who was beginning to look increasingly frustrated as the second half wore on, collected a yellow card for diving in the penalty area, before Marshall, under the spotlight before the game after replacing the injured Craig Gordon, pulled off a fantastic save from Robben again.

Miller had dithered and lost the ball on halfway, before Sneijder put the winger through, but his shot from the left side of the penalty was turned round the post by the Cardiff City man.

Burley looked to introduce a little more creativity into things on 66 minutes, replacing the holding midfielder Paul Hartley with Derby County playmaker Kris Commons who played, as he has largely done for the Rams, in a central role just off striker Miller, though he later moved wide right with Naismith joining his Rangers team-mate through the middle.

Miller was left ruing his luck again on 69 minutes, his well-struck shot through a crowd in the Dutch penalty area managed to strike Michel Worm, who knew nothing as the ball strick him and spun and bounced agonisingly side with the watching Naismith clutching his head in frustration.

The Scots almost opened up the Dutch defence again with 14 minutes remaining, when Whittaker fed Maloney in the area, only for the Celtic man to be flagged offside.

Miller's profligacy looked especially wasteful when Eljero Elia, who had replaced Robben, put the Dutch into the lead on 82 minutes. A nothing long ball was not dealt with by veteran David Weir, whose fluffed header fell at the feet of the youngster who rounded Marshall to score.

That goal sapped the will of the crowd, whose enthusiasm understandably flattened somewhat in the face of such a late blow, and they were almost left utterly hopeless when Elia broke with pace down the left, only for van der Vaart to out his effort wide.

Gary O'Connor's late attempted chip over Vorm floated wide, its agonised trajectory mirroring the extremes of hope and despair felt by the Tartan Army as they watched another qualifying campaign peter out in failure.

"I chose a team to win the game, simple as that," Burley had said pre-match. If their strikers had chosen to put on their shooting boots, they just might have managed it.