Jamie Murphy scored a vital away goal as Scotland narrowly lost to Iceland in the UEFA Under-21 Championship play-off last night.
The Motherwell striker, who has been in sensational form this season, put Scotland ahead but Iceland were not to be outdone at their National Stadium and fought back to take a lead into Monday night’s tie at Easter Road.
Scotland started by defending deep, looking to use the pace of Maguire and Murphy to hit on the break.
Aston Villa’s Barry Bannan looked lively from the off showing his class with trickery and quick feet, however Scotland failed to capitalise from a number of early set-piece opportunities.
On 10 minutes Iceland’s Birkir Bjarnason showed great strength to hold off a heavy challenge from Scobbie in the wide right area but Caddis defended brilliantly under pressure at the back post to knock the resultant cross behind.
Former Steelmen keeper Alan Martin pulled off three outstanding saves in quick succession when Birkir Bjarnason crossed a low ball which Sigthórsson, Sigurdsson and Gudmundsson all had had a go at finishing off during a frantic goalmouth scramble, but the Barrow keeper was equal to them all.
Scotland then made Iceland pay for their missed chance by grabbing a fantastic away goal through Jamie Murphy. A dangerous ball over the top was collected by Murphy as the right back slipped and from 15 yards he smashed the ball past the helpless keeper.
With Scotland galvanised by their early lead, Murphy was again at the centre of a promising Scotland attack.
He drove across the face of the defence and was upended 25-yards out. The referee brandished a yellow card to Eyjólfsson.
The set-piece was imaginative and very nearly put Scotland further ahead. Bannan ran over the settled ball, Maguire shaped to shoot then cleverly slipped in Bannan down the left flank but Wotherspoon’s run was flagged offside.
The equaliser came on 34 minutes through a strike just as fine as Murphy’s at the other end. Bjarnason outstripped the defence and with his delivery only half cleared Gudmundsson half-volleyed a sweet strike from outside the box.
Maguire hit the side netting after working his way in from the right and aiming his low left foot drive at the bottom corner but the sides remained level at the break.
Billy Stark shuffled his pack at the start of the second half replacing Wotherspoon with David Goodwillie who went straight up top. Barry Bannan switched to the right and Jamie Murphy stepped back into a wide left position.
Arfield hit the target on 60 minutes with a snap-shot after Bannan’s lay-off bounced awkwardly but Petursson held comfortably.
Within minutes of taking to the field substitute Ormarsson broke Scotland’s resolve and secured a home win for Iceland. He shifted the ball onto his right foot and unleashed a 25-yard screamer.
The goal sparked Scotland into life as they looked to equalise. Some sharper play around the box led to a scything challenge on Maguire but from 20 yards the Aberdeen man struck the wall.
Substitute David Templeton also worked himself some space on the left but his effort went wide.
Scotland will be without the suspended Scott Arfield for the second leg at Easter Road on Monday but a bumper crowd will ensure a grandstand finale to the tie.
[Reports courtesy of SFA website]