Scotland U21s lost out 2-1 to Iceland in Thursday’s friendly played in front of over 2,000 fans at Fir Park.
Motherwell youngster Max Johnston had a dream debut at this level, grabbing his first goal for the side on home soil. But two quickfire goals in the second half secured the victory for the visitors.
The first chance of the match fell to the hosts. Some brilliant interchange from Alex Lowry and Connor Smith resulted in the latter sending an inviting cross into the box. The delivery was headed only as far as Johnston, whose effort from the edge of the box flashed just wide.
Then in the 11th minute, Lowry launched a brilliant cross-field pass to release exciting, youngster, Ben Doak on the right, but his effort was saved by Iceland goalkeeper Adam Ingi Benediktsson.
The breakthrough came bang on the half-hour mark. Doak performed superbly again on the right, finding Johnston with a cut-back, leaving the debutant to coolly finished from close range.
It was that same combination of Lowry and Doak causing havoc for the visitors once more, but again the goalkeeper was there to stop the Liverpool youngster, who latched onto Lowry’s long pass.
Striker Tommy Conway had the chance to double Scotland’s lead, but Benediktsson was matching most things the young Scots threw at him.
Iceland proved they were well in this match, though, with a late flurry of attacks before the interval, but a combination of good goalkeeping and stalwart defending from the hosts saw Scott Gemmill’s side lead at the break.
But that late salvo should have been a warning for the dark blues as only two minutes into the second half, Iceland were level. An effort from Kristall Máni Ingason was blocked, but his second attempt was too hot to handle for Jude Smith in the Scotland goal and the ball rolled over the line.
The away side were in front just before an hour was played, taking the lead from the penalty spot. A mix-up in the Scotland backline meant Hayden Hackney was penalised for bringing down an onrushing Iceland forward, who was bearing down on goal. Ingarson then expertly dispatched from 12 yards.
Despite receiving treatment for a knock, Doak was still a driving force for Scotland in the second half. He constantly beat his man on the right, but his crosses found no takers.
The hosts just lacked a clinical edge in the remainder of the second half against a well-organised Iceland side.
This was summed up near the end when a cross from Robbie Fraser found Conway in prime position to score in the middle of the box. However, brave defending from two Iceland defenders denied the Scots a late equaliser.
Defeat in this friendly will be disappointing for manager Scott Gemmill, but he can look to the positives, such as assembling an exciting young squad and giving them a good run out against a good team in front of a decent crowd.
Going forward, the side will prepare for their next string of European qualifying matches in the new year.
Scotland Player of the Match: Ben Doak
The tricky winger was a bright spark throughout, continually beating his man and playing a big part in the opener. There’s a reason why there is a lot of talk at Anfield about the ex-Celtic player right now.
Iceland Player of the Match: Kristall Máni Ingason
The 20-year-old, who was a constant threat for his country, grabbed two goals to secure the win. A very polished performance.
Scotland Magic Moment: Johnston’s debut goal
With his family in the stand, Johnston scored his first goal on his first appearance for the U21s. It also happened at the ground of his parent club. A truly magical moment, albeit slightly bittersweet given the final score.
Iceland Magic Moment: Last-ditch defending
Attackers may get all the glory, but Iceland’s defence expertly marshalled the second half and got their side over the line. The valiant block at the end to deny Conway, a combination of two Iceland defenders, the highlight.
1. Jude Smith
4. Liam Morrison (c)
5. Connor McAvoy
6. Hayden Hackney
7. Ben Doak
8. Connor Barron
9. Tommy Conway
10. Connor Smith
11. Alex Lowry
19. Max Johnston
20. Ibane Bowat
12. Sam Long
21. Jay Hogarth
2. Adam Devine
3. Robbie Fraser
15. Thomas Dickson-Peters
16. Lewis Neilson
17. Archie Meekison
12. Adam Ingi Benediktsson
2. Jakob Franz Pálsson
4. Róbert Orri Þorkelsson (c)
6. Anton Logi Lúðvíksson
7. Valgeir Valgeirsson
8. Andri Fannar Baldursson
10. Kristall Máni Ingason
11. Ísak Andri Sigurgeirsson
14. Óli Valur Ómarsson
19. Danijel Dejan Djuric
20. Ari Sigurpálsson
1. Ólafur Kristófer Helgason
3. Oliver Stefánsson
5. Ólafur Guðmundsson
9. Eyþór Aron Wöhler
15. Davíð Snær Jóhannsson
17. Arnar Breki Gunnarsson
18. Kristófer Jónsson
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