Will Unwin on 16 November 2019
But was it better than Christie’s?
A cracking strike from Efrem:
McGinn: “Obviously there’s a lot of new faces in the squad and that’s a game we might have drawn or lost in the past. It’s good to get the winning mentality going into March.”
Christie on Cyprus’ non-goal: “Where I was it looked over the line but I’ve not seen it back. We rode our luck there.”
Cyprus just lacked a little bit of quality in the final third. Eifrem had come excellent moments but no one looked particularly clinical against a patchwork Scotland defence. I am sure they will be disappointed they did not come out of the game with a point.
The key thing to take from this for Scotland is that they can hold their own even without their biggest names. McGinn is a cut above anything else available to Clarke, who will be pleased by how his side coped against a half-decent Cyprus team away from home.
Full-time: Cyprus 1-2 Scotland
It was a very tight game but Scotland probably just edged it. They were solid at the back and had the players to make the difference in the final third when it mattered. Saying that, Cyprus had enough chances to get more than one but fluffed their lines at the crucial moment. I, however, will remember this game for how bad the referee was.
90+3 mins: Great play from Cyprus results in the ball being backheeled into the path of Papoulis who whacks the ball miles over from eight yards. He really should have equalised.
90+2 mins: Harald Lechner is the name of the referee and I am now going to follow his career with great interest as he has been utterly awful. Booking players for nothing and getting most decisions wrong. Devlin replaces Christie for Scotland.
90 mins: Scotland are wasting time in the corner. The referee books Palmer for moaning about Cyprus players not being far enough away when taking a corner.
Five minutes added on.
89 mins: Scotland are playing very deep currently and inviting pressure from Cyprus. They need to move up the pitch even though there’s only a few minutes left on the clock.
87 mins: McGinn wins the ball on the edge of the Cyprus area but overhits his pass to McBurnie who was in space and through, allowing the goalkeeper to collect.
85 mins: McGinn chasing down Merkis but clips his heels in order to get the ball, if he had dispossessed him legally he would have been away. Cyprus take a quick corner but McBurnie reads it and heads clear. The referee gives Scotland a free-kick anyway because he’s not whistled for 15 seconds.
83 mins: Cyprus get a couple of corners in quick succession but Scotland deal with them well and clear without fuss.
JR wants to discuss other bad referees: “I’ve been watching the Green Army Derby instead of this game. League leaders Forest Green are down at home 0-1 to Plymouth.The camera is on ground level so it feels like I’m running around on the pitch with the players. It’s pretty neat.
“As for the Scotland game, your description of the crap referee has me intrigued. There’s something fascinating about watching a really terrible refereeing performance. I think I’ll have to watch this game later.”
81 mins: McBurnie latches onto a pass and drives forward, before delaying to wait for teammates. In the end he sends a poor cross behind Burke who has to double back, ending the threat.
79 mins: McBurnie holds off the centre-back and flicks the ball into the path of Burke but his cross is easily cleared.
Christie is clipped on the right touchline and then whips in the free-kick. The goalkeeper comes but gets nowhere near it. Luckily for Pardo, the referee gives a free-kick because McBurnie breathed on him.
77 mins: McKenna is left one-on-one at the back but reads the danger and beats Sotiriou to the ball after good play from Papoulis.
75 mins: Joe makes a valuable point about the referee: “At least he’s been consistent: EVERY corner and goal kick has been called wrong.”
73 mins: Burke is on for Scotland, replacing Forrest down the left. Alaves’ finest will be looking to have another impact against Cyprus, having scored the winner in the reverse fixture.
71 mins: Palmer is up and about after some treatment.
Simon has been in touch regarding the post at 1500. He says: “I think Alun will find that it was Dave Jones who handled at Anfield in 1977. Clearest penalty I’ve ever seen. Even VAR would have given it, but only after a 42 year delay?! BTW, a Lawrence Shankland-less Dundee United have just taken the lead against Queen of the South at Tannadice.”
69 mins: Papoulis sends out the ball to Demetriou on the right flank, he lifts in a cross for Kosti to attack at the back post but his diving header from six yards out goes inches wide of the post. There is a problem for Scotland, though, as Palmer goes down in his own box.
67 mins: The referee gives handball against Ioannou, who seemed to chest the ball. God this ref is dreadful. How is he in charge of this match?
65 mins: Forrest breaks down the left but his cross is straight at the goalkeeper. The Cypriot fans have finally woken up, having been quiet for the majority of the match.
63 mins: The delay for treatment to Naismith an introduction of McBurnie have slowed things down again.
61 mins: Naismith goes down in a heap after seemingly getting his foot stuck in the turf. He manages to get himself up in the end but McBurnie is waiting to come on.
59 mins: Demetriou and Taylor clash on the touchline after the former kicks the Scotland full-back on the knee. Taylor didn’t actually do anything in response but is still booked. The main reason for his caution is that the referee is awful. Demetriou should have been sent off.
Cyprus get a corner and it is headed behind again by a Scotland defender but the referee gives a goal kick, obviously.
57 mins: McGinn goes in the book for a cynical trip on Demetriou to stop a counter-attack.
55 mins: Naismith has not played much this season and is looking a bit tired already. Maybe we will see McBurnie soon.
GOAL! Cyprus 1-2 Scotland (McGinn, 53)
It’s that man McGinn again! Forrest and Taylor combine on the left, with the latter sending a bouncing cross which McGinn manages to control into the bottom corner. It’s an excellent finish from the Villa man. Five goals in five for McGinn!
51 mins: Palmer bursts into the box and pulls the ball back for his forwards to attack. After a few failed attempts to shoot, the ball lands at Naismith’s feet but he gets stuck and his shot is weak.
49 mins: I think that goal is just what this game needs. Scotland looked sluggish for a while before the break, meaning they might be take the hint.
GOAL! Cyprus 1-1 Scotland (Efrem, 47)
McKenna goes into the book after lunging from behind on Kosti for absolutely no reason whatsoever. The resulting free-kick is lifted into the box and headed as far as Efrem who watches the ball drop and volleys it into the top corner from 16 yards with great technique. WHAT A FINISH!
Scotland have had some luck in the past ... but Alun needs to move on.
Just made a caretiere, so hopefully I will not break it and stand on a shard of glass for the sake of a political anecdote.
We are getting to see the Christie goal again, which is a lovely sight. I think when a player opens up their body and a curl a shot into the corner is one of the most aesthetically pleasing.
Half-time: Cyprus 0-1 Scotland
Cyprus should have taken the lead but the officials failed to notice the ball crossing the line. Instead it is Scotland who go into the break with the advantage thanks to their finest moment of the match, a wonderful curling shot from distance, courtesy of Ryan Christie.
The most interesting thing so far is how bad the referee is. Oh ... he’s just booked the Cyprus head coach for moaning about a free-kick going against his team. Classic.
45 mins: The tempo of the game has slowed considerably in recent minutes. The Cyprus substitution did not help matters but it seems everyone is just waiting for the half-time whistle.
Two minutes added on.
44 mins: Gallagher tries to clear it but instead just whacks it into McGinn’s face from five yards away and watches the ball bounce away for a throw-in.
42 mins: Scotland camp themselves on the edge of the Cyprus box but cannot find enough space to do anything of note. In the end, Forrest has a shot which is blocked.
40 mins: Cyprus need to make a change. Karo’s got a problem with his back and it being walked off the pitch. His replacement is Kastanos.
38 mins: Christie whips in a corner from the right but it is headed up and out, only for Palmer to take control of it and fire a shot from 30 yards, which is deflected wide.
36 mins: Friend of the show Nicholas Ioannou is actually playing left-back today. The Apoel skipper is usually a centre-back but he is doing a decent job of getting forward and puts in a dangerous cross only for a deflection to take it into the arms of Marshall.
34 mins: The referee blows his whistle for more pushing in the box. I am not sure our man in pink, Harald Lechner, has ever seen a game of professional football before.
32 mins: Naismith flicks the ball on for McGinn to chase, he then gets into a tussle with Karo in the box, which the referee lets go despite having his whistle in his mouth. Cyprus eventually recover the ball and clear.
30 mins: Jack sends a ball through for Naismith to chase but his age catches up with him and he’s beaten to it by 36-year-old Pardo. Christie whips in a corner, which lands straight on the head of an unmarked McKenna but he knocks the ball down and straight into the goalkeeper’s hands.
28 mins: Scotland haven’t done much since scoring, to be honest, it’s been all Cyprus. Clarke needs to get them going again and they will struggle to absorb so much possession.
A match summary from Phil.
26 mins: Cyprus break after McGregor is dispossessed, they work it into the box where Sotiriou fires a low shot but Marshall gets down well and palms it clear.
It’s a stat of sorts.
24 mins: Cyprus get another corner after Merkis heads the ball wide with no Scotland player near him. This referee is ruddy awful. He makes amends with a soft free-kick for pushing in the box.
22 mins: Papoulis has chucked himself to the ground twice in the last few minutes. The first one was deemed a dive but he manages to win a free-kick second time around. It’s whipped in by Efrem but McGinn reads it and heads it behind.
20 mins: Cyprus like to pass the ball around the back and then whack it long, which seems counter-productive. It works, though, as a fine pass is sent out to Papoulis, whose cross almost found the marauding Ioannou before being turned behind.
18 mins: I am getting a headache from all the whistling. The referee gives a free-kick for pushing in the box after Scotland take one of their own. I think the referee might not be very good.
16 mins: Speaking of the referee (and his assistants) ... they have already missed a goal and have been very strict on everything else. McGregor was booked for passing a spare back to the corner taker and knocking the other ball from its spot. How very odd.
14 mins: Cyprus will be even more aggrieved by their non-goal now. They go down the other end in an attempt to get a quick equaliser but Gallagher does his best to put off Efrem and heads it behind. The referee books McGregor for very little.
GOAL! Cyprus 0-1 Scotland (Christie, 12)
CRASH! BANG! WALLOP! WHAT A GOAL! Christie gets the ball on the right from McGinn, cuts inside, dribbles and then picks his spot, curling the ball with his left foot into the top corner from 20 yards. No chance the keeper could save that!
10 mins: Scotland are trying to play at a high tempo, that’s for sure. They just need to get their foot on the ball a bit more to influence things going forward, as they are too quick to force things at the moment.
8 mins: There’s no goal-line technology in play here and the Austrian assistant was not in a great position to see where the ball landed after crashing off the bar. Cyprus will not be too happy with that. A wake-up call for Scotland.
6 mins: Cyprus break through down the middle, with the ball finally played into Efrem in the box, he shimmies to get away from McKenna, makes room for the shot then whacks it off the underside of the bar and just beyond the goal-line but nothing is given!
4 mins: McGinn is not giving anyone in the Cyprus midfield any time to settles on the ball, harassing them from the moment they take possession.
2 mins: Scotland start brightly and force a corner after 22 seconds but nothing comes from it. Clarke can take the positives from his team looking eager, at least.
Peep! Peep! Peep! Here we go!
I do like Cyprus’ goalkeeper, Urko Pardo. Born in Belgium to a Basque father and Galician mother, only to end up playing international football for Cyprus having spent years playing in the country.
The teams are out on the pitch! Scotland in their traditional blue, while Cyprus wear white.
A classic! Let’s hope for more of same today. Richard Gough was the hero in this World Cup qualifier.
It really does look like a nice day in Nicosia, so no one can complain about the conditions.
This chap will be a miss today.
Second to reach a milestone is Steven Naismith who is notching his 50th cap. The forward joined Hearts in the summer after leaving Norwich, despite having offers from abroad, and has put himself firmly in Steve Clarke’s plans. “The biggest thing playing in Scotland does is put you in the limelight with the coverage,” Naismith said.
“It was part of my decision. If I was to go abroad and choose one of the offers further afield then that would have probably suggested I would not earn more caps, but I didn’t want to give up on that.”
There are a couple of milestones in the Scotland team today. Declan Gallagher is earning his first cap in defence. It’s been a long road for the Motherwell centre-back who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2015 for his involvement in an assault which left the victim with a fractured skull. He left prison after 16 months of his sentence and joined Livingston, impressing there before joining Motherwell where he has continued his fine form.
Cyprus: Urko Pardo; Karo, Merkis, Kousoulos, Ioannou; Efrem, Demetriou; Kyriakou, Costi, Papoulis; Sotiriou
Scotland: Marshall; Palmer, Jack, Gallagher, Taylor; McGregor, McKenna, McGinn; Christie, Naismith, Forrest.
Good afternoon! Roughly 73,629 players have dropped out of this Scotland squad, with Brian McClair and Gary McAllister on standby.
Under Steve Clarke, Scotland have won just twice in his six games in charge. Seeing as qualifying from the group is out of the window, today is all about showing they have somehow improved since he took over.
Without Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay and Ryan Fraser the task is all the more difficult. Cyprus are one place above them the group and can even boast a positive goal difference in the group, so overhauling them with a victory would be a great boon to a team heading towards a March playoff.
It’s currently 24C in Nicosia, so at least it’s a nice November away day.
Let’s just hope it’s an enjoyable watch for all!
Kick-off: 2pm GMT