Scottish players don’t often score overhead kicks. When they do, history shows that a performance at the World Cup Final usually follows.
It is too early to predict what impact John McGinn’s amazing equalizer five minutes before time will have on the hopes of reaching Qatar 2022. Still, Scotland fans of a particular vintage will remember the impact of a similar attack from Mo Johnston in a 2-1 win. Cyprus on the same side of Hampden in April 1989. Fourteen months later Andy Roxburgh’s team took their place in Italia ’90.
Having to come from behind twice in the second half, the Scots struggled to fend off the towering presence of Stuttgart’s formidable striker Sasa Kaladjzic.
Scotsman John McGinn celebrates after scoring a beautiful bicycle kick against Austria
McGinn’s excellent bicycle kick saved a point for Scotland in the 85th minute
Scotland: Marshall, Hendry, Hanley, Tierney, O’Donnell, McTominay, McGinn, Robertson, Christie (McLean 88), Armstrong (Adams 66), Dykes (McGregor 78).
Subs not used: Gallagher, Palmer, McKenna, Fleck, Nisbet, McBurnie, Fraser, Gordon, McLaughlin.
Booked: Hanley, Christie, Dykes, O’Donnell.
Goals: Hanley 71, McGinn 85.
Austria: Alexander Schlager, Lainer, Dragovic, Lienhart, Alaba, Baumgartner, Grillitsch, Ilsanker, Xaver Schlager, Kalajdzic, Grbic (Schaub 68).
Subs not used: Trauner, Gregoritsch, Ulmer, Friedl, Lindner, Trimmel, Sabitzer, Onisiwo, Schopf, Ranftl, Pervan.
Booked: Kalajdzic, Grillitsch, Ilsanker.
Goals: Kalajdzic 55.80.
Like their Austrian opponents, it has now been 23 years since the national team graced a World Cup final and the loss of two points at home in the opening game can never be considered a good result.
In the cold light, however, this was a game that could have ended in the loss of all three points.
Grant Hanley’s first goal in Scotland since March 2013 undid a 1.85m Kaladjzic tap-in and ended the game that was a little * too * open.
With eight goals in his last nine games, his club West Ham target is Kaladjzic in the form of his life and threatened to solve the problem ten minutes before time with a rising header. The regret is that the Tartan Army was denied the opportunity to celebrate a rather excellent equalizer by Aston Villa midfielder McGinn with five minutes to play. His eighth goal in Scotland colors the strike it deserves to witness a full house.
Without a win over Scotland since September 1978, Austria will feel that this should have been their night. A clear penalty kick was denied by an enraged Spanish referee after Austria’s opening goal, but Clarke’s side has the right to feel some injustice themselves. Defender Stefan Ilsander put his arms around Ryan Christie and it looked like a stupid blot kick.
Scotland has now only won three of their 12 opening night qualifiers since France 98. To build on qualifying for Euro 2020, the Scots need to find a way to win games like this. However, after a nervous opening of the game, which was best viewed through the creak of the fingers, a point felt like a decent outcome.
Full of players from the German Bundesliga, the scope of the task for the Scots was summed up by Motherwell’s Stephen O’Donnell as he went head-to-head with Bayern Munich’s multiple-winning defender David Alaba. Austria is 23 places higher than the Scots in the FIFA world rankings and until the home team finally turned this into a match, the gap felt a lot wider.
Sasa Kalajdzic opened the score after Grillitsch’s drive was beaten by David Marshall
Group Top Seeds Denmark sent an ominous warning by heading to Tel Aviv and winning 2-0. Scotland could have stood for the same score after 20 minutes.
Christoph Baumgartner survived a loud call for handball and stormed towards the penalty area before Hendry’s sliding challenge turned the ball into Kalajdzic’s path. In a sign of things to come, a curling shot whistled wide from the upright.
The Scots survived another close call when a delightful move from Kalajdzic Baumgartner provided an alarming amount of time and space to crack a low shot on target while the center-backs were at a distance. David Marshall threw himself deep to produce the rescue.
Against eleven top-quality opponents, the last thing the Scots needed was referee Carlos Grande, who was Austria’s 12th man. The Spaniard was erratic all the time and caused a sense of persecution in the home team
Despite being in second place for most of the half, Scotland missed out on a great opportunity to open the scoring after 41 minutes.
Grant Hanley equalized with a powerful header in his first international in three years
Passing the ball out of his own area under little pressure Austrian goalkeeper Alex Schalger caused a terrible mess by pouring the ball straight to Lyndon Dykes. He dragged the QPR man wide open to Christie, the goalscorer in Serbia in September. By making room for a right foot shot, the Celtic’s played-in effort was blocked by Schlager’s legs. Any higher and the goalkeeper would not have had a chance to redeem themselves.
Having endured the early press, Scotland was finally on the pitch. When peace arrived, they could thank them for it.
The hope lasted ten minutes of the second half. Florian Grillitsch had all the time he could ask for to hit a bouncing low shot towards goal. David Marshall pushed the ball away, but only up to the menacing figure of Kalajdzic. The beanpole attacker had the easiest task of putting Austria ahead.
Scotland should have had an immediate chance to level within a minute from the penalty spot. The referee’s decision to deny Christie a penalty when he was knocked to the ground by defender Ilsanker in the area was a dizzying affair. It seemed like a clear and blatant penalty.
West Ham traget Kalajdzic headed his second goal of the evening in the 80th minute
They naturally say these things on their own. A decision to rule out Austrian second place for Kaladjzic looked tough. Scotland could be grateful for little mercy
The introduction of debutant Che Adams now seemed a matter of when and not if. With three in his last four appearances for Southampton, Adams was a move Steve Clarke had to make.
The payback period was almost immediate. With 19 minutes to play, Scotland tied for the first – if not the last – time.
Austria were the architects of their own downfall. Stephen O’Donnell pumped a high, inviting ball into no man’s land behind a high line and Hanley had all the room in the world to run away from Ilsanker and a downward header into the far bottom corner of the net past Schlager’s desperate plunge. .
Kudos to Scotland. They spent the last stages from toe to toe against an aggressive Austrian team looking for a winner. If anything, the game was almost * too * open.
In Kaladjzic, the Austrians had a player who could not handle the defense. The striker threatened to have the last word with a glorious header with a hover over Jack Hendry to shoot Stefan Lainer’s enticing cross into the top corner of the net. Scotland had returned once. It was hard to see them do it twice. In a glorious echo of Mojo 1989, the fatalism was misplaced.