Scotland fell to a 2-0 defeat to Spain in Seville, with Steve Clarke’s side putting in a determined performance but unable to get the point they needed to secure Euro 2024 qualification.
Scott McTominay had a goal ruled out by a controversial VAR decision before Alvaro Morata netted a header and Ryan Porteous put the ball into his own net as Scotland dropped the first points of their qualification campaign.
Norway’s victory in Cyprus mean Steve Clarke’s side still need just one point, or the Norwegians to fail to win their remaining games, to seal a place in next summer’s final in Germany.
Scotland were given an early warning when Ferran Torres was put through on goal after just a minute had been played but the Barcelona star put his shot just wide of the post.
The hosts, as expected, had the majority of possession and forced a succession of corners, with Robin Le Normand heading over from one such chance.
Mikel Oyarzabal sliced a volley over the bar in another raid with Scotland having only a few chances to break in the opening half hour.
The Spanish fans in the stadium thought their side had taken the lead when after Aaron Hickey had blocked a shot from Oyarzabal, Mikel Merino hit a low first time shot that came off the inside of the post before going out.
Scotland suffered a blow five minutes before half time when captain Andy Robertson was forced off with an injury. The left-back got into the box to challenge Spain keeper Unai Simon for a high ball but landed awkwardly and went off with what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder. Nathan Patterson replaced the Liverpool player, with Aaron Hickey switching to the left flank.
Scotland continued to hold firm under sustained Spanish pressure until the break with Clarke undoubtedly happy with how his side had kept their shape and frustrated their more fancied opponents.
Spain brought on Bryan Zaragoza on for Oyarzabal at half-time and he almost made an instant impression when evading Patterson and Scott McTominay before thumping a powerful shot over the bar from distance. Patterson was then shown a yellow card for a challenge on the winger just moments later.
Scotland had a rare chance seven minutes into the half. John McGinn burst forward and played the ball into Ryan Christie in the box but he was stretching to reach and couldn’t get a connection.
Alvaro Morata then had a clear opportunity for Spain, juggling the ball to find space and then flashing his shot over.
Just before the hour mark, Scotland thought they had the lead. After Hickey and Christie had chased down Dani Carvajal and won a free kick, Scott McTominay stepped up. The midfielder had six goals already in the group and he curled a perfectly judged shot into the back of the net from a narrow angle.
Spanish fans fell silent and the Tartan Army went wild but a VAR review saw referee Serdar Gözübüyük sent to the monitor. The goal was ruled out, apparently because a touch from Jack Hendry on goalkeeper Simon was judged to be a foul. However, television commentators later claimed that the goal had been disallowed for offside.
The decision seemed to up the temperature and was followed by several free kicks and flash points with Scotland clearly frustrated by the decision making but holding their shape as Spain looked to make the most of their reprieve.
After 72 minutes, the hosts got the goal they had been threatening. Substitute Jesus Navas broke on the right and swung in a cross that Morata met with a glancing header that went past Gunn for his 34th international goal.
Stuart Armstrong and Che Adams were brought on for Dykes and Christie as Scotland looked to freshen things up and chase an equaliser but Spain were continuing to enjoy more possession.
A mazy run from Hickey presented Adams with a chance but he didn’t get a solid enough connection when in front of goal. Armstrong then saw a chance blocked by Rodri at close range after a long throw into the box from Ryan Porteous.
Porteous was then called into action at the other end of the pitch when he cleared a shot from Joselu when the Spanish substitute had gone past Gunn.
The defender then suffered a cruel end to the game after a strong performance when he put the ball into his own net to give Spain a two-goal lead.
A skip from Hickey had given Joselu the chance to play in a low cross and when Porteous tried to make a saving tackle while challenging Sancet, the ball ended up in the back of the net.
Five minutes of additional time were indicated but Scotland had a mountain to climb and had put a lot into their performance. Spain saw out the time with relatively little trouble and closed the gap at the top of Group A to just three points and left Scotland still needing just one to reach Euro 2024.
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