Spain overcome gutsy Scots
Fernando Llorente's late winner broke Scottish hearts and gave Spain a 3-2 victory at Hampden.
By Ben Collins
Last Updated: 13/10/10 8:03am
Fernando Llorente's late winner broke Scottish hearts and gave Spain a 3-2 win in their Euro 2012 qualifier at Hampden Park.
Scotland had battled back from 2-0 down against the world and European champions to give themselves hope of a famous result, but substitute Llorente struck in the 79th minute to maintain Spain's 100 per cent record in Group I.
Allan McGregor was superb with a string of first-half saves before the Scots' resistance was broken by a 44th minute penalty by David Villa, which put the Barcelona star level with Raul as Spain's all-time leading scorer on 44 goals.
Andres Iniesta then made it 2-0 in the 55th minute, but Scotland pulled one back just three minutes later as Steven Naismith claimed his first international goal.
And although Gerard Pique's own-goal drew the hosts level in the 66th minute, Llorente was left unmarked just three minutes after coming on to turn home his third goal in two qualifiers and condemn Scotland to another glorious failure.
Manager Craig Levein declared beforehand that this Spain side was possibly the best Scotland have ever faced and one look at the team-sheet backed that theory, with nine of the players who started the World Cup final in Vicente del Bosque's line-up.
Scotland went for a more attacking line-up to that which lost 1-0 in the Czech Republic on Friday, with Kenny Miller recalled up front, but that could not prevent Spain pegging them back for much of the first half and forging a host of chances.
Xabi Alonso was back after recovering from flu and Villa lashed over from his lovely long ball before heading David Silva's cross too close to McGregor, who then denied Silva with his legs.
Scotland threatened on the break when Darren Fletcher raced down the left flank before cutting-back for James Morrison and the West Brom midfielder was only denied the opener by a last-gasp block by Joan Capdevila.
McGregor had earned plaudits for his performance in Prague and it was another busy night for the Rangers keeper, who did well to keep out Villa's close-range strike.
Alonso then chipped the ball over the Scots' defence for Silva but the Manchester City forward failed to connect properly from close range and the ball bobbled harmlessly wide.
Stephen McManus was the hero with a late winner in the last qualifier against Liechtenstein and he came to the rescue again when he hooked Iniesta's volley to safety on the six-yard line - only for Scotland to suffer a crushing blow moments before the break.
Sergio Ramos' shot struck the arm of Steven Whittaker and referee Massimo Busacca ruled that it was a penalty, booking the Scotland left-back, and McGregor just failed to keep out Villa's spot-kick low to his left.
Hopes of a comeback looked dead when Santi Cazorla fired a shot against the legs of McManus and the rebound fell for Iniesta to despatch a low shot into the bottom corner from 15 yards.
Yet Scotland pulled one back moments later when Fletcher found Miller on the right and his teasing cross was met with a superb diving header by Naismith, who glanced the ball beyond Iker Casillas and inside the far post.
And Levein's men were back on level terms when Pique could only prod Morrison's low cross from the right into his own net with Miller lurking behind him.
But McManus was caught out of position with 11 minutes as the Middlesbrough centre-half drifted towards Capdevila's left-wing cross, leaving Llorente free at the far post to sidefoot home from close range.Scotland's misery was then compounded with a minute to go when Whittaker was sent off after being shown a second yellow card for a challenge on Ramos.
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|1||Shots on Target||12|
|3||Shots off Target||9|