Scotland & Spain Share Spoils of Euro Playoff Opening Tie
Scotland and Spain battled out a tremendous match on Saturday afternoon at Hampden Park, Glasgow as the two fight for a spot in next years European championships in Sweden.
The Scottish ladies were taking to the Hampden turf for the first ever time in this tough playoff tie and in front of a Scottish record breaking 4058 supporters, they performed admirably in grabbing a draw against the European ranked 10th spot Spanish side.
A penalty goal from Kim Little gave the Scots the lead within the first 25 minutes but the home side were pegged back after an impressive Adriana Martin equalized just minutes later to take a draw into Wednesdays second leg in Spain.
Spain started the brighter of the two sides with Scotland’s players looking nervous in front of a Scottish record breaking crowd for a ladies match and for the first 15 minutes it was all one way traffic as the visitors continued to push the Scottish back line looking for the opening.
Chelsea’s Adriana Martin, FC Barcelona’s Sonia Bermudez and Athletic Club’s Erika Vazquez all looked dangerous when running at the Scottish rearguard with Sonia in particular causing Rachel Small at right back all sorts of problems with her tricky play.
Sonia was the instigator of many dangerous crosses into the box but fortunately for Scotland in the early stages, they managed to steer the ball clear whenever called upon.
But Scotland fought their way back into the match, cheered on by the large watching support, with Kim Little trying to support her Arsenal team mate Jennifer Beattie up front with bursting runs and weighted through balls. Both these girls hard work was also opening gaps in the Spanish defence which allowed Jane Ross to manage Scotland’s first shot on goal from 18 yards which was well held by Ainhoa Tirapu between the sticks for the visiting team.
This forward momentum was to prove a timely boost for the Scottish girls as some good work from Potsdam Turbines Lisa Evans won a corner on the left that eventually led to Scotland’s opening goal.
From Megan Sneddon’s perfectly flighted cross, Beattie rose to head an effort against the post and in haste to clear the ball from her own danger area, Vazquez handled in the six yard box and the official had no option but to award a penalty kick.
Up stepped Kim Little to slot the ball home to a rapturous roar of approval from the 4000+ fans that had turned out to support the girls on this European Championship journey.
The Scots had a chance to double their lead moments later when Beattie played in Little who in turn laid off to Sneddon but the Celtic player watched as her shot sailed wide of the upright.
The play was switching from end to end and it was Spain that were to grab a goal back on 27 minutes when a Sonia shot somehow ricocheted from Gemma Fay’s hands in goal to bounce of the torso of Adriana and roll into the open net.
It was a real body blow for the home team players to lose such a soft goal but if that would deflate the players, Gemma Fay’s superb performance in goal for the remainder of the game would surely re-inflate them!
Sonia from six yards – saved by Fay. Adriana from point blank range – saved by Fay and to top of a tremendous spirit lifting first half performance, the keeper was to make an absolutely superb Peter-the-cat style double save from the penalty spot.
The penalty was awarded after the ball was adjudged to have struck Small’s hand and up stepped Adriana looking to double her sides lead but she was up against an inspired Fay who made the full size goals look like 5-a-side nets today such was her mastery of the area between the sticks. Not only did Fay save the initial penalty with style, she blocked Adriana’s rebound with finesse and courage from close to six yards out.
It was a great morale booster for the home side as they left the field for the half time break but were also fully aware of the constant threat posed by visiting Spaniards.
The sunshine put in an appearance for the second half but the play on the field for the opening 15 minutes didn’t match the brightness of the Scottish winter sun as neither side took control of the ball and both looked subdued in the early second period exchanges.
Jennifer Hermoso tried to pick up the pace a little for Spain with a glancing header toward goal but she watched as her attempt was ushered wide by Fay in goal.
Scotland were changing things tactically a little as the game wore on. Emma Mitchell was brought on to replace Jane Ross on the right and with the Glasgow City player willingness to move inside and run at the defence, it allowed Kim Little to push further forward alongside Beattie in an attempt to swamp the Spain girls rearguard.
Mitchell was an immediate threat with her terrier style of play, earning free kick and making penetrating runs into the box. Spain were also still causing problems when in possession with Sonia the main threat whenever moving forward but Small in Scotland defence was standing firm.
Emma Mitchell was unlucky near the 70 minute mark when her strike was well held by Tirapau in goal but the Scots were dominating at this point and it seemed that only time would stop them from scoring another.
The tactical change for Scotland was seeing Evans and Mitchell on both flanks running into more opportune areas in the box, feeding Little and Beattie with an ever increasing pace but they were being held at bay by a very good and efficient Spanish team.
At the other end Gemma Fay had to come to the rescue once again when a great lofted ball from Sonia to the back post was met by Vazquez but Fay was equal to the challenge. Moments later Sonia once again sent in a perfectly weighted cross , this time it was Adriana that glanced her header toward goal only to see it graze the top of the bar and go over.
The impressive Erika Vazquez made way for Debora Garcia on 75 minutes and further substitutions saw Adriana Martin leave the field for Spain, Lisa Evans for Scotland being replaced by Ana Maria Romero and Suzanne Grant respectively.
With minutes remaining on the clock Scotland had the best shout of the game for a penalty, even more so than both the others that had proceeded it but the referee deemed it not to have played Garcia on the hand and waved play on to a huge chorus of boos from the watching home supporters.
After three minutes of added time had been completed, the official shrilled her whistle and brought this enthralling match to an end with a score line of one gaol apiece.
Afterwards the Spanish coach said: “We dominated the game and deserved to win. Scotland stole the ball from us on occasion but played very well when in possession. We look forward to Wednesdays game.”
Anna Signeul, the Scotland manager saw the game differently and was clearly disappointed in the end result saying: “How did the referee miss that final penalty. It was more of a penalty than the others that were given and I am led to believe that it wasn’t even her that saw the first two, it was the assistants that pointed them out.”
Speaking very methodically she carried on :”We chose a tactic that we would be able to play as a solid unit against a very good side. We were disappointed to lose the goal and perhaps we could have attacked a little more and despite a nervous start we didn’t change our style. Spain played exactly as we expected and we won’t change that for the match on Wednesday.”
“We have to thank the fans for coming out today. It was a Scottish record for a women’s game in the country and shows the growing stock of the game here.”
Second leg takes place a tPabellón de la Ciudad del Fútbol, Madrid with a 6pm kick off.
Marc Roseblade is a Contributor for Examiner.com, Football Speak, Global Football Today, 90 Soccer, Yardbarker, OurGameMagazine and various online & published sports outlets across the globe. All quotes are obtained first-hand unless otherwise stated. You can follow Marc on Twitter @myscottishfitba