COMMENTARY | Scotland’s under 17’s side took to the field at a unseasonably sun baked Cappielow Park in Greenock knowing nothing less than a victory against Denmark would suffice in their quest to march on to the European Championships proper.
As the ultimate match in a series of three, both Scotland and Denmark knew going into this match that even a victory wouldn’t be enough to progress should Iceland win by enough goals in the other match going on in the group 6 elite round of matches.
With the sun splitting the sky — a weather pattern normally unseen by both countries involved — both sides started the match at an electric pace with the ball moving freely from end to end in a show of passing, technique and speed.
The Scots almost gifted the Danes an early goal after a defensive slip but fortunately for the home side, the resultant a shot flew wide of the goalposts much to the relief of the defender involved.
Halfway through the first half, the Scots had a pretty good shout for a penalty but the referee decided against it much to the displeasure of the boys in navy blue. A few moments later, Scotland had another chance to open the scoring when Fraser Aird found himself one on one with his opposite marker but instead of playing in any one of three attacker players, decided to try his luck from 18 yards that was easily saved by Hagelskjaer in the Denmark goal.
This mistake was soon to be punished by the impressive looking Scandinavian side as their big powerful number 10, Pierre Emile Hojbjerg, found himself some space outside the box before striking home with a dipping shot that Crump in the Scottish goal could only tip into the roof of the net.
The goal sent the visitors into raptures as the lead meant they would progress if things at this stage of the game stayed the same.
Scotland’s response was immediate though when Lewis Kidd found himself in the right place at the right time.
After picking up a stray shot on goal by a fellow player, he found himself in acres of space and unmarked he fired into the far bottom corner to equalize the scoreline at 1-1.
Both sides had a couple of half chances to add to the goal tally before the break but they ended the half all square without any further goals.
The scoreline in the other group 6 match saw Iceland leading 2-0 which meant that should Scotland win this match, they would not progress. Denmark on the other hand could still top the group but needed to score more goals than Iceland managed against Lithuania.
This proved to be their incentive as they took to the field for the second half as they dominated the proceedings from the outset.
Hojbjerg and Jensen were proving to be a real handful for the Scottish defense as time after time, they twisted and turned and unleashed powerful strikes goal bound which was to eventually pay dividends for the players in their traditional red and white.
22 minutes into the second half Svenn Crone found himself on the end of a ball that had been swept over the top of the defenders, and he watched as his deflected shot bury itself in the top of the net to once again give his side the lead.
The Scots had been chasing the game for long periods of time but had never given up hope of overcoming their viking foes and once again came back fighting with another equalizer only minutes after their counterparts had taken the lead.
Stuart Findlay played a nice ball into Kidd who saw his well driven shot saved by Fraser Aird was on hand to pick up the rebound to bury it home to make the score 2-2.
It was really end to end stuff at this point and could have ended 9 each had chances been taken but it was to be a truly exceptional strike that was to win the match for the Danes when the nippy Jensen managed to skip his way in from the left wing past three defenders, before firing low across the goal and into the right hand side of the goal giving his side the lead yet again with only seven minutes remaining on the clock.
The ball was being booted from end to end for the remainder of the game with both sides looking for a route one option to adding another goal before the end but time ran out on both teams to add any more and the game ended in victory for the Danish side.
It wasn’t enough for the young side to progress as Iceland had defeated Lithuania by four goals to nil and the distraught Danes were in tears at the recognition that despite remaining undefeated in this elite group, they wouldn’t be playing in the championships in May.
Afterwards Scotland boss Ricky Sbragia said “They were the better team today — the better footballing team. Despite losing we were happy with what we done today. We were poor on Thursday night against Iceland but and to improve as a team, we want to be playing against good teams like Denmark and Iceland.”
The Scots may not have progressed but the future of Scottish football looks in good hands with the coaching staff and players that are coming through the ranks.