Wednesday, October 13, 2010

La Liga Lowdown - Scotland v Spain Euro 2012 Qualifier

In a game that that promised to be dour, entertainment and effort ruled supreme in a fantastic game at Hampden Park.

The spectre of a tartan covered bus parked in front of the Scottish goal loomed large before this match and a Spanish team without Xavi and Torres looked like they would have a hard time picking the locks.

The game started out a feverish pace as any Spanish turnover was instantly countered by the Scots at breakneck speed. While Spain went close a couple of times, Kenny Miller and Co. were causing problems of their own at the other end. The last 15 to 20 minutes of the half saw Spain grab the game and call GK McGregor into action several times. An iffy PK at the end of the first half, barely converted by Villa, gave La Furia Roja a 1-0 lead.

The second half saw Spain continue their dominance and they were rewarded with a second goal after 10 minutes from Iniesta after Cazola’s shot rebounded off McManus. Clearly Spain took their foot of the proverbial gas and Scotland equalized on a diving header from Naismith just 3 minutes later. Looks like Sergio Ramos was a little lazy getting back and Pique couldn’t slide over.

The crowd raised the noise level again and Scotland took the game to the World Champions. They were rewarded when Pique scored an own goal after some good work from Morrison. At this point, the supporters were urging on their team to get at least a draw, but enter Lllorente. Relegated to the bench, he came on and almost immediately scored from a Capdevila cross. (All week rumors of a possible transfer to the big two have been swirling. Why Madrid would go away from Higuain is beyond me. All he does is score. Now FCB is a different proposition and he may actually provide the Plan B that Ibra couldn’t.) With that, the game was sealed. A second yellow to Whitaker with a minute to go in normal time condemned the Scots to defeat. They didn’t necessarily deserve a draw but maybe should have gotten something for their efforts.

A couple of notes on the Spanish players:

Silva was active but his crossing was poor, and he didn’t get a touch when he was open in front of goal. He had another half chance that was scuffed early in the second half. He made way for Lllorente with about 15 minutes to go.

Villa got lots of touches and played centrally, flanked by Silva and Cazorla. Overhit several shots and was offsides quite often (shocker!).

Defense got exposed early especially as Ramos was an extra midfielder. Pique and Puyol were just too physical for the straight up counter, but they were undone when Scotland got some possession in the final third. Pique was unlucky on the OG.

Pablo Hernandez, who had a great game against United in the Champions League, was absolute pants in his 20 minutes or so. Those doing the SWP play by play in the UF Bootroom could have basically inserted Hernandez’s name for the same effect. He had several misplaced passes and looked out of sorts. He did not bring value at all.

Busquets had a poor game. Several turnovers, followed by crunching tackles, followed by whining. He has regressed since the World Cup for club and country.

Special props to Scottish GK McGregor. He made several great saves and did what he could in goal against the onslaught. And he almost saved the PK.

Now here’s my question going forward: Does Spain need Torres? I say no. There is a front line of Villa, Pedro and Lllorente, with Cazorla and Silva for depth and changes of pace. If Krkic if ever gets his act together, he could be an impact sub. I suppose they could bring Torres and use him as a sub if he doesn’t cause a distraction. He was abject in the World Cup, devoid of confidence and team awareness. It may be that his time has already passed.

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