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Scotland U21 take one step closer to qualification with impressive display over Kazakhstan

An inspired Scotland U21s side rampaged to a pivotal 4-1 victory over Kazakhstan in Euro U21 qualifying on Thursday evening at the SMISA Stadium in Paisley.

Scot Gemmill’s side was no match for their Kazakh counterparts as a Josh Doig thunderbolt, sublime Lyall Cameron strike, composed Tommy Conway penalty, and well-worked Lewis Fiorini finish helped strengthen their Euro U21 2025 credentials.

The hosts started proceedings, shooting from left to right, although it was Kazakhstan who held the majority of possession in the game’s infancy, Dennis Mitrofanov having a shot from range blocked by Rangers centre-half Leon King.

The Kazakhs proceeded to enjoy possession, Murojon Khalmatov the next to go have a pop that failed to test Scotland keeper Cieran Slicker.

Gemmill’s young side soon got themselves into things following these early warnings, however. Kieron Bowie opened his box of tricks on the right-hand side but it was Liam Morrison who received the first notable opportunity of the match.

Conway showed some quick feet inside the box to cut back for the centre half whose effort was straight at Temirlan Anarbekov. Fiorini then struck from range but Anarbekov was once again caused no issues and held firmly.

The Scotland pressure was mounting, and it paid off just before the 20-minute mark. Bowie showed great strength on the right-hand side. He held the ball up well for the on-rushing Max Johnston who cut back for Aberdeen midfielder Connor Barron on the edge of the box.

His shot – which was taken on his weaker left foot – was scuffed and the ball fell to the grateful feet of Sassuolo full-back Doig. The captain led by example, controlling well, and rifling into the near top corner to score his maiden goal for Scotland at any level.

The lead was then doubled moments later. Bowie once more showed silky feet, weaving his way through a wave of Kazakhstan defenders to set up Lyall Cameron on the edge of the box. The little Dundee midfielder made no mistake and finished with accuracy into the bottom left corner.

Given the number of opportunities they created and the quality of the goals they scored, Scotland fully merited their early lead.

Although they were comfortably in front midway through the first half, Gemmill’s team didn’t let up. Bowie continued to terrorise the Kazakhs’ backline, hitting the bar shortly after Conway was denied in a one-on-one situation.

Scotland’s dominance continued and on the 38th minute, Conway was given the opportunity to net from the spot after goalkeeper Anarbekov came rushing off his line to bring the Bristol City man down in the box.

The 21-year-old stepped up and remained cool as ice, sending the keeper the wrong way following a clever stuttered run-up. Conway admitted during the week that he wants to eventually play for the Scotland senior team and his second goal for the U21s will have done his hopes no harm.

Kazakhstan would have been pleased when the fourth official signalled there was only a minute added at the end of the first half because Scotland were utterly dominant and well worth their three-goal lead going into the break.

The temperature took a turn for the worst in Paisley for the second 45, but the performance level of the hosts stayed the same, Fiorini getting in on the act less than 10 minutes after the restart.

Scotland’s high press paid off with the Charlton Athletic man pouncing on a loose ball deep into opposition territory. Fiorini played a simple yet effective one-two with Conway, and he scored via the post.

It felt like the scoreline could have been anything Scotland wanted it to be, but referee Sven Jablonski’s decision to award Kazakhstan a spot-kick in the 67th minute incensed the home fans and players alike.

The controversy didn’t faze striker Yan Trufanov, though, who kept his composure and netted with a majestic Panenka that Zinedine Zidane would have been proud of.

Striker Conway continued to threaten after the visitors got their consolation, as substitute Adedire Mebude looked equally as lively.

In fairness to Kazakhstan, despite being 4-1 down, they gave their all going into the closing stages. The offside flag availed Konstantin Gorovenko’s side on several occasions.

Four minutes were added at the death but apart from a Mebude corner that didn’t result to much, it was a rather quiet finale to a match in which Scotland were outstanding.

In the way the home side played, there were coherent similarities to Steve Clarke’s senior team. Doig could have easily been mistaken for Andy Robertson or Kieran Tierney with his marauding runs down the left-hand side while Conway and Bowie linked up masterfully in attack.

From tonight’s game, countless positives can be taken from a Scotland standpoint not just in terms of performance, but overall qualification. The U21s remain second in Group B, trailing Spain by goal difference.

La Roja do have one more game to play, but gaffer Gemmill will be delighted to have the points in the bag going into his side’s final four games. The U21s aren’t in action until September when they host the Spaniards in a crucial clash, but they remain well in the mix to make it to their first Euros since 1996 and create their own bit of history.

Man of the Match – Scotland – Josh Doig

At left-back for Scotland this evening, Josh Doig led by example. The 21-year-old covered ground on the left-hand side like a cheetah. His outstanding performance – that will have caught the eye of Steve Clarke – was complete with an incredible early strike that opened the scoring 19 minutes in. The Kazakhs’ keeper was given no chance as the Sassuolo man rifled into the top corner. He put in a performance that would have done his Euro 2024 hopes no harm.

Magic Moment – Scotland – Doig Opener

Just before the 20-minute mark, left-back Doig rifled a rocket into the top corner. It was his first goal at any level for Scotland and one he will remember for years to come, and a

Man of the Match – Kazakhstan – Yan Trufanov

Imposing centre-forward Yan Trufanov posed the most threat of any Kazakhstan player to the Scotland backline. He had a few chances from open play but was clinical from the spot in the second half.

Magic Moment – Kazakhstan – Trufanov Channels His Inner Panenka

In what was somewhat of a miserable night for the Kazakhs, Trufanov’s penalty kick was memorable. The 19-year-old showed utmost composure to chip the ball out of Slicker’s reach, although his strike turned out only to be a consolation.

Scotland U21s

1. Cieran Slicker (GK)

2. Max Johnston

3. Josh Doig ©

4. Liam Morrison

5. Ibane Bowat

6. Leon King

8. Connor Barron

9. Tommy Conway

10. Lewis Fiorini

17. Lyall Cameron

19. Kieron Bowie

Kazakhstan U21s

1. Temirlan Anarbekov (GK)

2. Yegor Tkachenko

3. Lev Kurgin

5. Alexandr Shiroboko

8. Meirambek Kalmyrza ©

9. Yan Trufanov

10. Abylaikhan Nazymkhanov

11. Denis Mitrofanov

14. David Yessimbekov

21. Damir Kassabulat

23. Murojon Khalmatov


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